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Daniel Onumbu
Where do you feel welcome?

“Being part of the majority society” could be a short answer to the question “Where do you feel welcome.”

Unfortunately, as becomes clear in Afropean, answering the question from a Black European perspective isn’t quite that simple. The impressions Johny Pitts relates during his travels across Europe highlight the different realities and levels of feeling welcome and at ease.

In order to feel welcome for a short period of time, it is usually sufficient to deal politely with one another. To do so in the long term, however, requires the sharing of values, experiences and perspectives with each other and receiving and processing them with empathy.

As a Black person with a German passport, do I feel welcome in the world I was socialised in and whose values I have internalised from childhood? Yes and no.

As Pitts accurately describes, German society, just like the rest of the world, is undergoing an increasing shift to the right. Counteracting this politically is difficult if you are not part of the majority society. It is a dance on knife’s edge you need to live up to. On the one hand, it’s a matter of changing the white perspective on Black people in your own society, by constantly trying to refute any negatively connotated attributes. On the other hand, however, this leads to being unable to freely express opinions, make decisions and support each other. Yet it is possible to glimpse a tendency indicating that this could potentially change in the future. For example, Franziska Giffey invited the Afro-German Academics Network (Afro Deutsches Akademiker Netzwerk, ADAN) and Each One Teach One (EOTO) to a discourse with the aim of actively engaging with Black realities.

Can my experiences as a Black person in Germany be understood from a different, non-Black perspective? Will the problems be recognised as systemic and not classed and downplayed as isolated cases? This doesn’t usually happen in Germany because the country currently only confronts its Black reality at a minimal level.

How welcome can I really feel when the others are unable to understand the obstacles I had to overcome in order to find myself in a position they hold as a matter of course?

I feel welcome in a community that is shaped by similar experiences and shares the same values. Accordingly, a multicultural, non-white society feels more inviting than most spaces I set foot in at university or at work. For me, every safe space is a refuge to recharge my batteries and process the daily acts of repression.
The most obvious answer to the question of where I feel welcome should be “the city I grew up in.” Munich.

Unfortunately, this answer isn’t that simple either.
Every time I return from travelling, I feel joy about my home and this space I know like the back of my hand. However, this feeling evaporates as soon as I realise that while I may feel welcome, I am actually not. When, once again, I become the victim of scrutinising glances, all the way to racial profiling. When, once again, I am the only one on the train being questioned about my origin, my destination and my reason for travelling. I quickly realise that I am alone. Alone in my reality, with my experiences that my white fellow human beings cannot understand.

Despite all that, I have actually felt very welcome in Munich this year. At the “Black Lives Matter” rally at Königsplatz square on June 6.

The masses of people who took to the streets against a systemic problem and for the Black community, for us, were impressive to see. What’s more, it was a political gathering of Black people whose size was unparalleled to date and probably will remain so for the foreseeable future. If our society manages to display such awareness on a daily basis and take a stand against racism, sexism and ableism in public as well as in private, then not just I, but all of us will begin to feel welcome.

Just like Afro-German, the term Afropean could attain a meaning that makes feeling welcome a possibility for Black people in our society. To achieve this, the image of a community needs to change in the eyes of its beholders. This path is associated with pain and the admission of one’s own racisms. However, each person tackling this path contributes to the possibility that at some point, we will be able to answer the question “Where do you feel welcome” with a short and simple statement from a perspective that is currently still white.

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