Racial profiling in Spain

Racial profiling is a common practice in Spain, as this Cameroonian man can testify, he was stopped and arrested for more than 160 times! I had a friend that used to be pulled over almost every single month, taken to the police station, only to be released soon after. This is a practice that have penalized people of non Caucasian appearance in Spain, from the African American  lady (Rosalind Williams)who first took this practice to higher courts. It is currently a trending topic once again, because of the case of stop, search and police abuse against a Pakistani citizen living in Barcelona.

As you can see, this has a been a widely spread practice, approved explicitely by Spanish authorities, even though the United Nations and other Human Rights organisations have publicly urged them to stop using skin color as a presumption of illegal immigration status or crimes.

My particular case. As you all know I am a black African raised in Spain who feels at home here because of time, cultural and emotional bonds. Personally I had so far been pulled over 3 times in the last 16 years. All of them, in my home city, where everybody knows me, except, apparently, the police officers who never appear in their uniforms but as civil citizens.

The first time, I was about to travel, in the coach station and carrying a big bag of belongings to my student flat for the new academic year. Well, I did not take it personally since so many things may have seem ‘suspicious’.

The second time, I running towards a bank office to pay some university taxes, and in the middle of the race, I saw a Brazilian friend talking with other two guys. She is mixed-race and was accompanied by a black African guy I barely knew. For my suprised, the third person turned out to be a police officer who stopped me to ask for my ID. Well, you judge.

The third time, I was going to give some private lessons to a high school student and was also in a hurry. All of the sudden, a man blocked my way and showed his badge and asked for my ID. I gave it to him while telling him I was in a hurry to work. He was brief and courtious.

All these three stops happened at the same area, the Stations Plaza (bus and train). They were brief and educated.

 

But this very summer, comming back from the US embassy in Madrid on my way home, inside a coach full of people, we stopped to pick some people at the airport and to me suprised only two people got in the bus. I was in the last row, reading a book and not paying real attention. I noticed a young man coming towards me, so I moved to my right to let him take a seat. ( How naive). But that would be…

the fourth time Police would searched me. He came straight to me as asked for my ID. I couldn’t believe it! Why me out of all those passengers? Everyone was paying attention to me, of course. I shaked my head while I was opening my wallet. I was tired. Once again. He said in a conciliatory tone: Don’t be mad, man. I said nothing. I just felt humiliated for no reason. Then I noticed another one was also doing the same to a man who seemed to have a Latin America accent. After that this second me came to take to ID card, and call to they headquarted ( I suppose) and verify the name of the person, loud voice. Not only did he do that, but he also look above my head and asked if the bag over there was mine. I nodded. He demanded me to open it and search it. At this moment I was feeling totally harassed. Why out of all the personal bags over there, he thought only mine would have something wrong? After this unfortunate scene, they turned back and left.

NOW. Some people may justify this for security reasons, especially at places like airports and bus stations. Also, I am aware that terrorist attacks have been happening recently in Europe. But, let me remind you of something. There is something call presumption of innocence. You cannot presume that because someone is of a different ethnic group, he is a criminal or whatsoever, without other criteria. Racial profiling is a clearly discriminatory act that make people feel unfairly targeting and harassed by the police. Remember that police is there to protect, not the abuse minorities. It is very easy, lazy, and ineffective, to stop and searched all those who don`t look ‘Spaniards’ or Caucasian. And, in my opinion, it only creates feelings of untrust, distruct and resentment from those who feel harassed. So far I have no especially bad opinion of police officers, because I have been lucky until now. Or also because I understand their job, and humanise then, since some of my friends and classmates are now part of that body. And I understand that orders come from above, as it has been proven. However, this persistent pervasive practive does not do us any favor as a society which is increasingly multiethnical.

Being dark-skinned is not a crime. If it were so, some 3 million people in Spain would criminals. This is the number of people from non-EU countries that live legally in Spain nor those almost two millions who have acquired Spanish citizenship. Amongst these people you can find basically Colombians, Ecuadorians and Marrocans, who make more than the half. Rest of countries, including China, Senegal, Peru or Pakistan make the rest.

Is it fair to target everyone who looks non-white, when statistically most of them live here legally? How many hundreds of thousands live ilegally in Spain? Should we be harassed for them? Isn’t it there a more effective way to do this? Without harassing part of the population? I have spent a year in England and in the US, and was never stopped by the police to demand my ID. And, be certain that they have my travel history and my biomorphical information. Security is important and respectable. But legitimaticy and perceived non-discrimination is even more important. I wonder how do they expect us to collaborate with this national task if they treat us this way? Really?

And finally, just when I had just forgotten the bad experience, on my way back to the US, it happened again. For the second time, in the same airport, and by the same officer, I was “randomly checked” again at the Frankfurt International Airport. I was not surprised. This time it took more than the last time. And I was taken together with a US guy of Latin American origin. We sat close to each other. After body check by the machine, they my hand baggage and took EVERYTHING OUT, every single book and pen, and my computer. Well, I guess this is the world we live in. Some of us have to endure this for others to feel safe? Didn’t they see me already in their computer? Or the previous visa in my passport? couldn’t they check my empty criminal record from the Spanish system? Why me in the whole waiting area?

And yes. I know that this shit happens everywhere, even in the US, tough I heard it is ilegal. I have also heard of similar things in certain African countries, although not against Caucasian in particular. I just want to be treated with respect, since I am a low abiding person. Discrimination only fuels hatred and resentment. They should know best.

 

 

 

 

Breve actualización en verano norteño/Short update from northen Summertime

Releyendo el última entrada me doy cuenta de que os hablaba de mi deseo de volver a casa y de las evaluaciones.

 

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Pues bien, ya estoy en casa. Volví a España a las 2 semanas de terminar mis clases y poner la última nota en el sistema informático interno. Y sí, como me suponía, el segundo semestre fue infinitamente mejor. Pude terminar todo el temario, me organicé mejor, y además hicimos muchas más actividades con los alumnos.

En cuanto a las evaluaciones, fueron mucho mejores. Alguno se quejó de la cantidad de trabajo, pese a que fui mucho más benevolente que el semestre anterior, pero no hubo comparación. Tuve un caso delicado de acoso estudiantil que me dejó trastocado, pero bueno. Y en mitad de mis vuelos de regreso a Spain, sorpresa…. Me llaman 20 veces y me escriben un correo electrónico para ofrecerme volver a la misma universidad con mejores condiciones. Una auténtica sorpresa! Tras dos semanas de negociaciones, decidí volver, para ahorrar un poco; y porque en España no encontraba más que ofertas para hostelería y comercial (en fin).

Así que amigos, la aventura estadounidense continúa…

De mientras, estoy trabajando en la tienda de siempre, pocas horas, mucha familia y algo de fiesta y playa… ¿Qué más le puedo pedir a la vida?

IN ENGLISH

After reading my last post I noticed I was talking about how much I missed home and also the students evaluations.

Well, I came back to Spain two weeks after I entered my last grade to the system. Eventually I was able to finish my program and do more activities with my students. We sand less, saddly, but I hope they did learn. I was very happy with my 101 class.

As for their final evaluations, they went very well. Much much better than the previous semester, although there will always be those who complain. I also experienced my first case of  one of my students being harrassed and bullied. I was horrified. And halfway back home, still in my stopover in London (UK), I saw more than 20 lost calls and an email from my university offering me to stay longer with better conditions! What a surprise…

 

After weeks of negociations, I accepted because I had not found any better in Spain (unfortunately).

And right now I am in my home city, working in the same shop, with sufficient free time to spend it with family, family, and some fiesta and playa (party and beach). What else could I expect?

 

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

A medio camino de casa… (traducción)

En español

Como indica el título, ya estoy a medio camino de mi estancia aquí en los EE.UU. No me puedo creer que llegara aquí a mediados de agosto y ahora sólo me queden 3 meses para terminar. Ha sido una travesía con sus altibajos, como cualquier otra travesía que merezca la pena mencionar, ¿verdad?

Apenas una semana después de mi llegada, me soltaron en frente de mis nuevos alumnos. No es que fuera mi primera experiencia como profesor, puesto que ya había trabajado como profesor de idiomas en varias academias en España, mientras iba estudiando de un lado a otro. Sin embargo, era mi primera vez como profesor universitario, en un país extranjero, con compañeros, estudiantes y un sistema universitario desconocidos… Emocionante! Me gustan los desafíos. Soy de esa clase de personas. Le puse mucho empeño casi todo el tiempo, intenté que mis clases fueran entetenidas e instuctivas al mismo tiempo, intenté huir de la gramática, aunque no del todo. Había que reforzar la base, animarlos a hablar, a cantar a Juanes, debatir, escribir… osea, engancharse con una asignatura que o bien era opcional ( y supuestamente un Sobresaliente fácil) o bien era obligatoria (para los especializados en Lengua Inglesa o en Estudios Internacionales). En España, no regalamos sobresalientes tan fácilmente. De hecho son bastante poco frecuentes. Si consigues un Notable, eres bastante afortunado. Pero aquí las cosas parecen diferentes. Son clientes que se pueden perder… Es una cuerda floja de la que no se puede tirar demasiado fuerte. Es lo que tiene lo privado (aunque lo llamen Public University). Así que acepté ser geneorso y poner buenas calificaciones, a cambio de que trabajaran realmente duro. No pierdo nada por poner sólo notables y sobresalientes. Pero tenían que ganárselo. Después del primer examen, suspender dejó de ser un tabú. Les daba la oportunidad de recuperar y de mejorar si querían mejor nota: pero tenían que alcanzar el nivel. Muchos estaban en el nivel intermedio con contenidos de básico sin saber… Después de muchos reveses lo conseguimos. Aprobaron todos, aunque unos 6 de 30 con un aprobado. Algunos pocos abandonaron el barco. Pero desde luego, ya no darán por sentado un Sobresaliente en español.

Al final del semestre llegaron las valoraciones de los estudiantes… de todo. Primero, me di cuenta de que la mitad de ellos no se dignaron a opinar. Esto es como lo de las elecciones y las abstenciones, ¿verdad? ¿Cómo se valoran? Y de los que sí lo hicieron, dieron o muy buenas calificaciones, sin explicar por qué, o muy malas, quejándose de lo exigente que era y lo difícil que era. Y algunos comentarios eran claramente ofensivos…. los estudiantes pueden ser muy cabrones, pero bueno, así es la vida. No se puede gustar a todos, ¿no? Con todo, me parecen bien estas evaluaciones. Está bien tener una crítica y poder aprender de ella. Sí me sirvieron para ver lo que les había gustado y lo que no. Ojalá este sistema existiera también en mi universidad en España. Espero que el siguiente cuatrimestre sea mejor… Ya veremos.

Así las cosas, este nuestro cuatrimestre es totalmente distinto. Me siento mucho más cómodo y tranquilo. No es que sea un experto, ¡pero cómo se nota la experiencia!. He cambiado la estructura de mis clases, intentando encontrar el equilibrio entre la parte  cultural/ divertida y la parte ‘aburrida/gramatical’. Y se les nota en la cara cuando paso de hablar de la situación política en España, con sus casos de corrupción, a hablar de los verbos reflexivos o de la particularidad del verbo gustar en español.. Aquí se aprenden los idiomas quizá de una manera más interactiva, y con menos peso del escrito y de la lectura. Hay mucho material audiovisual, gramática automatizada y mucha conversación: y muy poca lectura. No se se lee nada. ¡No lo puedo comprender!

No obstante, no todo es negativo. Estos estudiantes son por lo general muy trabajadores. Casi todos estudian y trabajan paralelamente. A los 18 ya están fuera y se buscan la vida. Todo lo contrario al contexto español (recuerdo ser uno de las pocas excepciones, y no siempre). También es verdad que el mercado laboral no es el mismo, aquí sí tienen trabajo para emanciparse y pagar esas tasas astronómicas para los bolsillos de cualquier estudiante de Europa o incluso de Latinoamérica.

Ahora bien: ¿cuál es el siguiente paso? Ya os conté que por primera vez en mi vida había pensado en emigrar -legalmente, claro-. Pero, siendo sincero, estar en un lugar tan pequeño y con menos de 25 mil habitantes (más de la mitad de ellos estudiantes) y sin mucho que hacer… No tengo muchas ganas de quedarme aquí. Sería posible quedarme en una ciudad más grande y con más ambiente, pero eso implicaría encontrar una empresa que apoyara la extensión de mi visado, dentro de la misma categoría, en otra oportunidad laboral similar… La otra posibilidad es hacer un máster de dos años, con la opción de cambiar mi estatus a trabajador después, ya con un título estadounidense. Y qué quieren que les diga: después de dos licenciaturas y un máster en España, no estoy para otro máster. Uno ya va para los 28 y quiere tener un trabajo decente adecuado a su preparación… No me convence del todo. Por otra parte, echo mucho de menos a mi familia. A mis amigos. Estar en un país que entiendo y sé dónde poner los pies. Ya sé que soy un afortunado por no tener que estar desesperado y aceptar lo que sea. Lo sé. Pero todavía tengo ganas de volver.

Dicho esto, ahora entiendo por qué los africanos que residen aquí están sobrecualificados. Es una condición para poder quedarse (es un hecho, comprobadlo). Un ejemplo claro es el otro único profesor africano que hay en mi Facultad: licenciatura en Togo, otra más en Francia, luego otro máster y doctorado en EEUU… Dios bendito. ¡Son más de 15 años de formación universitaria! Bueno, si a él le sirve… De momento ya he comprado el billete de vuelta… aunque la puerta está abierta. Ya os iré contando.

Halfway Back Home

Dear friends,

As the title suggests, I have already the halfway of my stay here in the US. I cannot believe I arrived here the last mid-Augost and currently only have 3 weeks left in here. It has been journey with ups and downs, just like every journey worth mentioning, right?

Barely one week after my arrival, I was pushed in front of my new students. It was not my first time as a teacher, since I had taught foreign languages before at several academies back in Spain, while studying here and there. But it was the first one as university teacher, in a foreign country, with unknown colleagues, students, university system… Exciting. I like challenges. I am that kind of person. I did put a lot of effort most of the time, I tried the make my classes entertaining and informative at the same time. Running away from grammar, yet never being able to go without it totally. The basics. Encouraging them to talk, to sing, to discuss, to write… in other words, to be engaged to a subject that was either elective (and supposedly an easy A) or mandatory (for English and International studies majors). In Spain, we do not give As as easily. They are actually pretty uncommon. If you get a B, you are quite good /or lucky. However, it seems that things are different here. So I agreed to be generous, but in exchange, they need to really work hard. Many of them had never failed a Spanish exam… until I got there. Failures and reassessment became no longer taboo. If you wanted a B or an A, you got the opportunities to reach it, but you had to actually achieve the level. And most did. Few quit. But they never took an A for granted after the first exam.

… And then comes the students’ reviews/evaluations: when I realized that about half of my students did not bother giving feedback… come on, what about me not correcting and grading your compositions? And those who did: awarded an A, with no explained reason, or they complained of the hardship and demanding of the instructor. Students can be very mean… I guess we cannot be loved by everyone, right? I especially remember a student’s review saying that she/he experienced anxiety for a subject was NOT even mandatory for her/him, because I was too demanding. Come on! Anyways, It’s good to have an instructor evaluation of some kind… better than nothing. I hope our reviews at my Spanish universities were kind of similar. I did learn things and got ideas to improve. Let’s wait for the next one…

So this semester is another story. Of course I am not an experience instructor, but I do feel more confortable and at easy. I have restructured my classes and intend to be balance between the ‘cultural-fun part’ and the ‘lingusitic-boring part’. They can interchangeable, but that’s boldy how student see it. You can read it from their faces, when you say, now let’s stop talking about the new political panorama in Spain and its many corruption scandals; and let’s talk about reflexive verbs and the particularity of the verb ‘gustar’…  Language is taught differently here. Less focus on grammar, writing and reading, and more on talking and interactive communication. I can abide the 2 last ones, but Reading. We must read to learn the internal structure of languages, to learn how to write,  to develop so many dexterities…

However, not everyting is negative, at all. I have found students to be generally respectful and committted to their studies, and their JOBS! Most of them work and study: this almost the opposite of the Spanish case. And they leave their parents’ home way earlier, at 18, while in Spain, some still wander from dad’s bedroom to the kitchen at 30! Obviously: the job market is not comparable, but even when it was…; and second, tuition fees cost a fortune! unthinkable for a Spanish (and I would dare saying a European or Latin American student: Argentina, Ecuador or Mexico to name just a few,  have university access for free).

Now: what is next? I told you that for the first time I thought about migrating and staying- legally, of course. But, to be honest, living in such a small place, with less than 25 thousand inhabitants and very few distractions… is not very fun. Also, in order to stay and actually have an opportunity to find a job later, I would have to take another master’s in the US. That means: two more years studying while teaching as a TA (a bittersweet figure in the US highe ducation system). Am I desperate to stay?: No. Do I think that I need another master in Education after the one I got in Spain? No. At least not yet. I mean, I am going to turn 28, with 2 bachelors and a master, how much can someone over certify himself before deserving a decent job? I guess it also depends on your specialty. The case is, I want to work. My temporary visa does not allow me to do unless I am sponsored by the exam kind of the enterprise I work for right now… And, I miss my family. Deeply. And the country, the ability to know where you are, how things work and where to put your feets… Maybe I am just too fortunate and I can choose to migrate or not. Anyways, no wonders why the African immigrants in the States are overqualified, standing as the most degree holding immigrants in the US (check it out). The only other African teacher (naturalized American) at the university actually is a clear example: bachelor’s in Togo, another bachelor’s in and master’s in France; another master in the US, and then a predoctoral program, and then a Ph.D. This means, more than 15 years os university studies… Really? Well, if it works for him…

I have already bought my return flight ticket… just in case. The door is open though…

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo! Bonne Année!

I hope that this year has been good enough for you and that you have made the full of it. If not, you have another opportunity, we all have because we are alive. Yet, being alive currently means both to be blessed and at constant risk. I say this for many reasons I will confess later on.

I have decided that from year 2016 this blog will be bilingual (Spanish and English). The reason is that I think the matter I talk about here may also be interesting from Latin American. Those African descents  from Afroargentinos,uruguayos, paraguayos, peruanos, ecuatorianos, colombianos, venezolanos, salvadoreños, costarricenses and all other Central American and Carribean countries where we find the most of them. Even afrobrazilian, though they might not understand well Spanish. I hope that English helps here. I am learning Portuguese, promise. To all of you, know that I think of you and wish you the very best in your lives. I know that most of times it’s not easy, but we shall always look at the future and choose our fights and planify our lives.

 

This being said, I explain why I think we are lucky yet cursed. I am sad. I have cried many times while reading and watching documentaries. Reasons: most of African descents across the world do not live in the best conditions. These I have being doing research, I learned the poverty has only being reduced 26% in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the last of all devoloping continents. Looking from Spain, hundred of Afican youngsters died in the Mediterranean sea each year, between the Magreb and the coast of Spain and Italy, mainly. Slavery is yet to be effective and real in Mauritania. Black and dark skin people are being killed by police officers in Brazil, where this population were denied its share of the country’s wealth after they were freed. However, former masters were reparated with State money and passed the wealth to their European-looking children. Today they enjoy some affirmative action in access to education, but are widely mistreated by police officers, for whom their lives do not matter enough.

I am specially sad because of the situation in the US. I have seen the videos of the several shooting and it’s just troubling. The more I watch them the more I feel myself in danger in this country in which it seems that black lives mean nothing before a police officer. There is a climate of corporative cover up amongst them, it seems. I am sad that this is happening in such a beautiful country with the whole world reprensented in it. It could be a mirror for the world. This tens of gunshots are just and abomination. Today I read and watched about the kid Tamir. A 12-year-old kid! No words. Yet, what saddens me the most is the cynical comments on the media outlets. I have read people say that all black kids and their family must die….

I wonder how long is the black population going to refrain theirself. I wonder how do black police officers feel about this climate. I wonder how does President Obama feel about this? Is it true that he can’t do anything to protect his fellow citizens? Something must certainly be done. This impunity is too ominous and too terrifying to be ignored.

Because we are alive and because we can always try better for us and our children. For that I am thankful.

 

Happy New year to all of you. This year, as a genuine immigrant for the first time, I will experience this time alone. With my book. Crying and hoping for the world to be a better place. And more determined than ever to be part of the betterment.

 

Feliz Año Nuevo.

 

 

The case of African-descendant Brazilians

There was a time when there was a big incoming of Brazilian immigrant into Spain. There weren’t always well received, even if they had visa waiver rights as so have almost all Latin American citizens in Europe. You would read news of these citizens complaining of the treatment received at the Spanish international airports and the restrictions of the rights they did have on the paper. Then, as their economy grew and they became a major economic power, they stopped coming and started applying the same rules on Spaniards emigrating to Brazil. Some of these went to seek a better life back home in a context of an agonizing Spanish crisis. But some stayed because they prioritized security and the welfare state offered by Spain, they would say.

Now, one of the things that I noticed among my Brazilian neighbours and fellow inhabitants was their wide racial diversity. Many are blacks or mixed-race –what we call in Spain ‘ mulatos’. However, I realized that the Brazilian politicians I used to see on news, on media, and more strikingly, among the exchange students who came every year at my university or at those I met at other European universities, were always white and pale. Not even tanned, at times. I have only met 2 visibly African descendant Brazilians on these settings. One, two years ago, and the other one this year in the US. There are not black, but mixed, you could see that they have multiple heritages. For example, I have amongst my students a bunch of them (exchange students), all whites, coming from a country where most of its population is black or afro-descendants. What’s is going on there?

I sought a bit of information and realized that Brazil, as many other American countries, inherited the racial hierarchy established by their for European masters to legitimate the slave trade. Once they gained independence, they maintained this pigmentocracy and social system based on race, in which a white minority kept all the structural powers and set themselves as the role model of beauty and behaviour to be followed by all their fellow citizens, all while encouraging white bleaching and white immigration. This reminds me of South Africa, with the distinction of the  unofficial segregation and a large population of mixed race, which transmitted the global image of a racial democracy in Brazil. I thing it was a quest for absorbing the majority and follow the minority model.

Changes are being introduced step by step and this seems to be changing. I have read about the first ever Brazilian TV programs /series who two black Brazilians as main characters. The first ever! In 2015. Ok. In a country where  TV and soap operas a major source of popular culture, its main audience cannot recognise themselves on the films they see. This is what I call cultural and social alienation. If you are born in it, it’s hard to criticize it. It’s the only reality you know. They also have white affirmative actions favouring a minimum of black or mixed race people, which makes many white angry after centruries of privileges and negation of what was stated on their Constitution. Fortunately, changes were made, and it seems to be a growing population of this majority to the middle class, thanks to their access to education and growing awareness connected to a globalized world. I remember the shocking story of a black Brazilian doctor complaining that many of her white patients complain about being treated by a black person, or they would make insensitive remark about her hair. This in a country in which there are a minority. I swear to God I would not treat the person but better let them die. If a there are no more professional, I would just object and period. If I ever meet a student like this, I would really get them out of my class. I don’t tolerate this nonsense. Are we crazy? Do we believe that a professional is better or words based on their skin colour or hair? Stupid people do not deserve our minimum effort. There are plenty humble and reasonable people out there who need help and are of real interest for the society.

I do think these cases and those of other similar countries need some kind of structural reparation, simply because black people were slave to grow an econony they did not benefit after they were released. Nor did they have right to access the lands and resources of the country in the same level as their former slavists. So this only was a freedom to poverty and insecurity that could not bring anything such as equality. I can’t understand how can people negate this. It’s like negating slavery  and holocaust existed. Just a fact. Consequences are still pretty blatant. Face it for a better future as a nation.

An interesting article documenting this, here. It’s really worth it. A bit long but detailed and wonderfully explained.

Learning from Chimamanda’s experience in the US

I am a big fan of Chimamanda’s books since I started with Half of a Yellow Sun, some years ago. I then move back through her bibliography and have been learning both about Nigeria and the US  with her. I like several things from her books that sometimes lack from Francophone writers: simplicity and clarity of style, something very important to widen your audience to non-native English speakers; and second, maybe her biggest talent, the ability to observe and describe daily situations in a reflexive, factual yet hilarious way. Here are some quotes from her book I am reading currently The Thing Around Your Neck.

 She [the protagonist] could not complain about not having shoes when the person she was talking to had no legs.

Then he told you how the neighbors said, a few months after he moved into his house, that the squirrels had started to disappear. They had heard that Africans ate all kinds of wild animals.

I must confess that at the point I read the second citation I broke into stertorous laughs. I laughed so much that I wanted to cry. This sense of humour, plus her ability to connect with many of its readers amongst the African diaspora, by explaining experiences we go through daily or some situations we all know someone who went through them, all this while teaching us about Nigerian life, History and society, which is so African in many ways and so familiar even for those like me who haven’t spent many years on that soil… And, apart from connecting me with my African side, she is incredibly interesting on the way she describes America. With so many experiences. The complexities of some many lives often reduced to two facts: the quest for legal immigration (read the chapter about the American Embassy on this same book The Thing…), and the poverty struggle. Plus, she has many videos online talking about so many issues on Nigeria, Africa, the US and so, that she has become kind of parts of my life. Strange things today, right? Not only can we read about our authors, we can follow them on tv interview, attend to their conferences and public readings…Some even send emails and add them on facebook. I am not there… yet.

Anyway, my point is that I relate to her American stories because I feel like in the same situation. True that I came already with a job, but still I like to reading her analysis about relationships between Africans and Americans (be they black, white or latino, so far I have not read about Asian-Americans and Africans. And to be honest, I would like to read something about that.); and I have started to read more and more about my African descents American cousins. Of course I feel and know that we have many things in common, and I can relate not only for that millennial origin, but also for knowing what’s like growing black in a white dominant environment.

Many people people think that each time you raise this type of issues you want to talk about racism, and sometimes they are right. But most of the time, it’s just to make them aware of the many aspects of society in which you realise that you are not represented and not taken into account. Some of the most obvious and most influencial aspects are Mass media platforms, TV, RADIO, CINEMA, THEATHER, NEWSPAPERS. It’s obvious to anyone with some little critical spirit to realise that the portraiture of people like you (if any) is not possitive; that the heroes, Historical characters, influencial people in society, popular politicians, artits, etc. Sometimes it’s just that there aren’t any people like you in certain fields; other times the one you see play a role you can’t relate with. They are just stereotypes of what your people are, and often not very possitive. Growing within the blatant minority at many structural levels makes many things harder that it seems. Basic things such as educational achievements, security and active citizenship, ability to access country’s wealth, political engagement and power, and of course, healthy selfsteem.

To acknowledge these carences may create great sense of anger and frustration, especially when people around you seem unable to understand your reasons. But I always say that the irony of live make rich people of richer countries unaware of their fellow citizens on the working class, but these at the same time are unaware of their fellow working class colleagues in poorer countries. You can spend a lifetime trying to make them understand the privileges they inherited, but they won’t see it. Most won’t. It’s just part of the system they were born in. They feel entitled to them. If you get angry and claim what you think is your place, then you get labelled aggressive, criminal and other nicer words.

But I think there many other ways of improving things. Begining with the selfsteem. I definitely believe that every African descent person should live once in a life in Africa. I mean, live, not believe. I know this from my own experience. Your value of yourself changes and you stop being a vulnerable minority. This is useful for many healthy and pragmatic reasons. You will also get to acknowledge the good aspects of your homecountry. Travelling around the world also gives a bigger picture of how things work, pros and cons of live in another corners, learning that every place has its own issues and that you can always choose the place that suits you best. And the one you know the better is still home. I believe in freedom of movement. Especially for these cases. European Americans have very close ties with their continent of origin for these same reasons. Not only practical, but mostly emotional and cultural, and this does not make them any less Americans. This is the bless of this country, I believe. Its ability to emotions and feelings in anypart of the world. Its diversity reflects the diversity of the planet, and this is definitely and advantage, in my opinion. 

I have observed that Identity problems are more often present in the offsprings of Africans or immigrants in general who do not have a balanced sense of belonging within their two cultures. We don’t need to choose, just as between man and dad. We are both. For this move, I would urge African countries to do something useful for once and allow doble nationality for their descendants overseas. This will soften circumstances and unite people who can truely learn from each other. I also strongly advocate for  more cultural and civic ties within the two continents, by the help of international programs, professional cooperation and emotional ties between these two communities. More international couples and cultural events would definitely help, as well as common goals on matters such as educational achievements, security and political reinforcement at a global scale. For instance, most of the Africans that arrive to the US are graduate students who come to further their studies and/or work. These could definiteley collaborate in a national program to improve educational outcomes on local communitie,while the later help us integrate into the American society. The African American universities may build major exchange programs with African universities to promote mutual contact and learning. This applies also with Latin American countries with visible African descent population such as Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Perú, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil. This is the kind of things I would do. Create international and intranational meeting points and produce common goals and work for it. I would be glad to participate in programs that would help increase the number of African Americans  and Hispanics who access higher education, for examples. I been reading about and I think it needs a community-based response to sort it out. Just my naive opinion.

Donald Trump and the rise of the American tribalism

It’s been almost 3 months since I arrived to the US, and despite I still don’t fully understand the national problems and try not to get too involved, but there is no way to let this man get unnoticed. Donald Trump is everywhere. The last time I listened to the radio he was saying that he would build a huge wall at the US-Mexican borders and cancel the Constitution that gives direct citizenship to babies born in the US, so that children of Latin American parents would  not entitled to the hold American nationality — a law that favoured him and all the European and people from worldwide who were born to foreign parents in this countries for centuries, with the exception of black Americans, whose ancestors were brought here as slaves and were denied many civil rights not so long ago.

Then I started investigating a bit and discovered that himself is a descendant of a German ancestor who moved here and opened a cathouse /brothel as a way of living. I also learned that he, himself has been married to several women, immigrants from Eastern Europe, something that makes me think that this is not about being strict and rigorous on immigration policies, but it’s an ethnic issue. It’s hard to understand, in my opinion, that someone from a country made by immigrants from around the world can have such feelings regarding newcomers. This is not Europe.

But, since I am here I got to understand the importance that race plays in the country. I don’t remember how many times I have been required to identifying my ethnicity-race while filling out an official form. We don’t have this in Spain. And, honestly, it bothers me because of two reasons:

  1. It reminds me of the bird certificates and other important documents of certain African nations. I absolutely hated it, because in my opinion, it separates the people of the same country and fosters tribalism, hatred and discrimination in many aspects of life amongst the some people, fellow-citizens. Many African countries have been blamed for this, logically, and we all know the possible outcomes of such a shocking policy of identifying its citizens by their ethnicity. What happened in Rwanda? I have always blamed Belgium for introducing these ID containing  tribe labels, that ulterior governments maintained for sectarian reasons.
  2. Also, because the criteria on race are just nonsense. I mean, isn’t it totally illogical to force someone with biological origins in many countries to choose a race?  What are mixed-race people supposed to do? I begin to understand that label of ‘people of colour’, even if I find it unnecessary to specify any colour at all. People are just people, right? And then, also, what race is a Latino? People who speak Spanish or Portuguese? (I do, my Spanish friends do, portuguese speakers around the world, from Brazil to Angola…, are we Latinos?). People who are mixed-race? People with origins in Latin American no matter what race are there ? Even if there are white Argentinians, Chileans, Uruguayan or Mexicans who are direct descendants of European as well as the European-Americans in this country? What if there are as black as I am, from Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, or Nicaragua? Shouldn’t we fall under the same category then? I mean, this is something I would think useless and offensive. I remember Michael Jackson saying, ” I don’t wanna spend my life being a colour” or similar. Totally agree.

To be honest, so far I have always checked the category Black/ African-American. Despite I don’t know if I am right or not. Is this category only for American citizens for centuries who happen to be black? Is it for every black person regardless of their origin, be it Central Africa or Cuba? Should I check the Latino case because I come from Spain and it is considered as a Latino country, as I have heard over here? What a mess. What is all this for? Anyway. Funny enough, I have noticed in my university staff system that my personal information is subjected to change, as if you would change your residence address or your nationality. How is it possible? Can I check white European the next time I change my mind?

But, going back to the matter, with all this Trump headlines, I begin to understand. While I recognise that stats are useful for the State  to serve its citizens, to use as a proof when blatant case of discrimination are raised, or when addressing a particular problem for which we need to focus on a certain demographic spot (such as Education), I also believe that It’s a matter of tribalism. Of profound and intrinsic tribalism. A primitive fight for power.

Many Americans need this to be aware that white European-Americans remain the majority and keep all the structural powers that this entails. I’ve read about some complaining that population is increasingly formed by people who come from other countries in Asia, Africa, and especially Latin America, which seems to be most fastly growing ethnic group in the US. And this seems to bother these supposed ‘true’ Americans who feel racially threatened and who see their demographic power decrease.

Of course, there are many records on how the American Administration has being favouring European immigration to the US, while restraining that from the rest of the world, especially Latin America, I and think they still do so. One proof is how easily I got here, even if I happen to be also African, but there are many agreements that indirectly promote this. On the other side, ‘it’s almost impossible to move here from African countries, especially those inhabited by Blacks in general. There is a whole racial strategy in here, but it seems that so far it’s not working so well as many Europeans just don’t feel like immigrating to the US even if they have more possibilities to do so. Now there are also more and more agreements with countries such as Australia or New Zealand. But, well, this is just my  theory.

I think that this is just a display of the white supremacist feelings in an extravagant way. And the most interesting part here is that, this time, it’s hidden under the category of, ” Oh, let’s fight against illegal immigration”, which is more acceptable from an average citizen point of view; and most interestingly, this time the target victim is not the black American citizen, who is also invited to hate Latinos in general, and Mexicans in particular. This racial broom is the not so hidden reason under which they want to deprived latino children from their citizenships. Does this nationality give automatic rights to people living illegally in the US? Haven’t I read about families being divided and parents being deported despite their children were Americans? So why this attack against babies? It’s just a matter of racial power, pure tribalism. You make sure your tribe remains the dominant and most powerful race. And taking into account that the so-called African-Americans and Asian-Americans do not suppose a threat to this demographic dominance, that’s why these people are the target. We need hate someone. It doesn’t really matter if they entered legally, in my opinion he would not be so popular if he targeted illegal white immigrants from, say, Ireland (I know there are many) or Germany, or even Sweden. Because these people would be part of the white European-American tribe, therefore  there are more entitled to be here, according to them. The ku Klux klan should be happy that a presidential candidate is actually promoting the white supremacist agenda, even if it’s targeted to black Americans in particular.

This is very sad, but so familiar. I personally hate tribalism so hard because I have seen the consequences of this abomination. Because people feel attacked in their deep down sense of being. They feel attacked on what they are, something that is not in their hand to change and that determines many aspects on their lifelong opportunities to success. In some African countries, the power remains in the hands of the President, his family and acquaintances and the rest of members of his tribe/clan. The average citizen is hence totally under-protected by their government, and discriminated in matter of job access, civil and political rights and social and economic access to the countries’ wealth. This can only leed to profound injuries and wounds on people’s heart, because they realize this injustice right away. When I work hard and fulfill all the official requirements and only the same people get the job, of course I get upset, and this happens everywhere in earth because of corruption. But when this happens systematically, it’s a huge problem.

I am not for providing this information on official forms, as well as  I don’t agree with saying your country of origin (except for specific circumstances), your gender or even your full name. As I see it, being aware that we are all consciously and unconsciously biased, we should keep important things out of this subjectivity. I have always supported anonymous exams, and whenever I submit a CV, and try to add only the information relevant to the job, such as competences, education and experience. Nothing else. Just to avoid these things that are largely happening and are so tempting. We are all biased and prefer to give preference to people we feel part of ‘our’ social/ethnic/whatever group, that’s why we should take all the measure to set clear priorities for everybody. Everywhere. Things clear, no regrets and no discriminations in any case.

Sorry for the long rant.

New step: USA. Am I a new immigrant?

Dear friends, after almost one year, here I am again. A lot of things have been going on since my last post in December 2014.

First, I finished my master’s in Madrid, found a temporary job as an English teacher and got to work at the Ministry of Health of my adopted country. Could never have imagined! It was short, but I am sure they did like my classes and had good impression of my work.

After that, I accepted my new challenge. It was back in March, while working at one of the African Film festival I have collaborated with along these last 3 years, I received a call from my alma mater university telling me that I was selected for a job-scholarship to teach Spanish at an American University! Wao! It seemed that I was going to make it after all. I had applied for the same programme one year ago, but was shortlisted and ended up the first in the waiting list. So, yeah. If you have read earlier post, you might remember that this is something I had always wanted to do, as a way to improve my English and also cause, we translators love travelling and enjoying our target language within context! I was not allowed to do it before because I did not have the Spanish citizenship, and therefore couldn’t apply for similar programs sponsored by the Spanish Government, even if did fulfill the requirements and all… But finally, life shows me as always, that if you really want something and work for it, you end up finding the way. Even us, those who were born to poor parents in poorer countries, us children of immigrants who dangerously migrated to earn a better living.

So, after the paperwork and saving some 2000 dollars + some help from my family, I took the flight for Northern USA. And here I am. For the first time, I am fully aware that life is giving me good rewards for the efforts my family and I have made these last decades. Apart from being able to send most of the cousins who live back in Central Africa to school, I can save some money for myself. I want to save some 10 thousand euros to open a chain of African restaurants in the biggest cities of Spain… among other dreams.

But, there is a but. I have travelled to richer countries so far, either as a student (in the UK) or as a tourist (to France, Germany or Italy), but this is the first time in which I feel like I may become an immigrant in a place. I mean, the truth is that despite the English language industry boom right now in Spain- which would guarantee me at least that I won´t end up starving, especially after the master in Education-, there is a huge unemployment rate in the country (over 25%). A social tragedy that affects mostly young people (< 50%) and underqualified people who used to work in the construction sector (as my father). That’s why I have had to keep on studying ever since I finished my first degree in 2010. I took another degree, took a working gap year from college and went back again to take a master. I can’t know if I would have found something this year in a high school there or not.

On the other, fully of this reality, and also because they believe I don’t have the same opportunities in Spain in spite of my education, my family has been throwing the idea of staying in the USA on the table. Not as an illegal migrant, of course not, hopefully there is not need for that. But, they want me to find my way and make a good living in the USA. They kinda have that idea that everything is better here, or at least much better than in Spain. The truth is that I don´t know what will be my next step. One thing has stricken me here. At the University in which I work, there are many professors and professionals from all over the world. Something really difficult to find in Spanish universities, where there is a sickening spread of endogamy and clear corruption in job appointments. And also, I had no problems coming to teach Spanish here, although it wasn´t my mother tongue (but really works as such) and I do not hold a Spanish passport. Even border’s agents were very kind and welcoming to me. It’s not like that in the most of Spanish airport regarding Africans. Was it because I come from an European country? Or because I come as a graduate professional to work? Does this make me any different from other migrants who did not have the opportunity to study two degrees? I guess it’s a different story. I´ve heard similar harsh on Mexicans and other Latin American citizens. Such is the world right now.

But yeah, I will stop beating around the bush and say that I am so happy and conscious of my life path right now. I am fully open to what life has ready for me to go for it.

And, finally, I must confess, that for the first time I am having a second thought about going back to my home country and try to improve things getting myself into politics. I know it’s dangerous and a temptation to corruption, but really, this world wandering opens my eyes. For the first time since a long time, I feel like a proper immigrant. I mean, this time I came by my one feet, there is always some African nostalgia in me. I don´t know why. I am a rebel heart. During recent years there has been like a spark of revolution within the African youth, championed by the Senegalese movement “Y’En a Marre”, which spread to Burkina Faso and other francophone countries. I have been following the moves and achievements and I feel like there is a historic moment about to happen and I want to be part of it. Dictatorships and kleptocracy are, I think, the biggest one to blame regarding current state of misery in our countries. Politician who apply heartlessly the neoliberal measures of the IMF and the WB, who favor free trade capitalism widely when other countries subsidize their companies and farmers, they build enormous burocracy and complex systems to hide their blatant corruption and unlawful enrichment… meanwhile, their people are emigrating, dying in the sea and wandering around the world. Most of the time, in very different conditions that I do. And I feel profound sorrow for my people. Sorrow that low and middle class have to rent and sell their goods to send their children abroad, as a prospective breastfeeder for the whole family. Such was the case of my family. Both my father and mother came from poor families, who once had a profession and could save enough money to migrate, did not have a second thought. I wasn`t even aware of what was going on. Today and thank them and I cry at the same time for this faith many people are forced to admit. So, yes. There is a little something burning within my heart. But I want to be well prepared and have something to contribute with. I am so happy that the candle was lighten within the continent first, that it didn´t come from outside. Let’s work for a better future. My next specific goal is to have the next university graduate among my family. On the road!

Good luck and strength, dear friends. May your wishes be accomplished.

¡Feliz Navidad y Año nuevo, amigos! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)

Dear readers,

As you can read through this blog, I am now happily living in Madrid, coming from northern regions of Spain. I write this post only to wish you a wonderful year 2015, hope your expectations will be fulfilled and that love and health will keep your bodies and your souls warm and ravishing.

As for myself, I just hope I will be able to successfully finish this master I am taking. Well, actually it is now a must because I was granted a scholarship by the Spanish Government to be able to take this compulsory master free of charges, for it’s a professional sector considered as a national priority (Teachers of Secondary Education), especially those meant to teach English, as it is my case.

Concerning this, I would like to discuss about two aspects.

One: Can we measure language proficiency? Really? I mean, there are many factors affecting our ability to speak and being gobally fluent in a foreign language that I just find it hard and always incomplete. We are required to prove a level of C1, according to the Common European Framework of Reference, that’s to say, the equivalent to the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English, or, obviously a university degree in English Studies and Literature or Translation of English.

The problem is that the average level is low in most of those degrees in English, and obviously even more for those who studied different subjects and had to prove a C1 level. I am a mix of both circumstances: I hold a Cambridge certificate proving to have at least a C1 level and I studied Translation of English and, especially, French. I honestly believe that my knowledge of English should be much higher and I am determined to get a bilingual level in order to properly teach. However, I am sure that it ‘s not even a criterion to pass the competitive exam to secure a job as a state worker-teacher. Contents include History of the UK and US and its literatures and politics; some units on the Commonwealth, in Linguistics, and finally about the Spanish culture and Educational system and laws of Education. Obviously, proficiency in the Spanish language is mandatory, even more than in English (unfortunately for my Irish, Russian, UK and US classmates).

Two. I am officially a middle- class person in Spain (really?). That means that I am not entitled to receive any extra allowance meant to support students from poor families while they study. Not anymore. For some years, things were the opposite for me. You may think that it’s a good news because our family incomes have increased, but it’s actually because the profound social and economic crunch has scrolled down the poverty standards. Currently, they consider that a family of 4 members (as its my case) live within the national income average if they earn 12.000 euros/year (yes, 12 thousands!).  In other words: 3000€/per capita and 250/month. Truth be said, the number of applicants for these scholarships have dramatically risen, and so were the requirements to be eligible. Things are getting really fucked up over here people. I don’t know either to feel sad or happy for this new status … Well. I am still unemployed and studying at age 26. You judge.

To be fair, I can’t really complain. For I was given a tuition fee waiver, so I can save around 2000 euros for other issues such as my bills and my accommodation fees in the expensive Madrid. And, although I still need to get a job to gather enough money to survive during the rest of the academic course, at least I feel confident about it. I can always teach English French or English to gain pocket and leisure money. I am grateful because the basics are covered and my personal savings will allow me to cover the rest of it. But, what about those who can’t????? The job market is unaffordable and quite awful today for many people. You need to have a strong qualification and privileged personal network to make it… or just be brilliant and lucky.

I have another good news. I have recently learned  that I can apply to be state teacher after my masters even with my current African nationality because I am considered a family of an European (Spanish) citizen. It seems that now that my family is formed by 4 nationalities (2 European/2 Africans) we are given more rights.

Anyway, I still think that I need to live in an English-speaking country for at least a couple of years to feel confident to teach English at a good level. And I am actually looking for opportunities abroad to teach French or Spanish or to translate. So if you know or hear of something, let me know. (I don’t mind, South Africa, Kenya, India, or the USA … as long as I can teach and learn) It would be of great help for me and for my future students, wherever I end up living.

Until then… Have a wonderful beginning of year 2015. Love and hope from Spain.

And last but not least, I have learned that more thousands of African immigrants have died while crossing into the Spanish border this year. The influx has risen. Meanwhile, African authorities stay speechless and doing nothing visible to me. We need to do something to stop these selfish people, we need to organize inside and outside our countries of origin to force them to improve, to move forward. Pressure! This makes me really sad. It’s horrifying that all those people can just keep on smiling and filling their pockets and bank accounts in Switzerland while allowing this to happen.

One of these people has arrived to my house this month. He crossed the border and was sent to our city because he said he had relatives there. He is family of my father- in- law and one more victim of these governments that force their people to leave as the only option… We need to do something. We are all affected by this. If they tell them not to come that way, risking their lives, they won’t listen because it much worsed to stay at home arms crossed watching the polititians in their lives if luxury and travelling. What do you think. What should we do? Where shall we start from? Hope. Hope. And strength.