Friday, 29 September 2017

The face of racism

This is a sport class. A bunch of kids aged five to eight are standing in a row, taking turns in running and jumping over obstacles, supervised by a trainer and an assistant. An older kid (white) slaps my daughter in the face. The trainer does not say anything. She comes to me crying, her nose bleeding heavily. I take her by the hand and go to the trainer. Her nose is bleeding, I say. Silence. She has been slapped, I say. I don’t know, he says (in German). What is it he does not know? She has been slapped in the face, I say, have you seen this? Yes, he says. And don’t you say anything? They always get into fights, he says. She’s bleeding, I reiterate. I don’t know, he says. Have a look, I say. I don’t know if the bleeding is from the slap. (He keeps speaking German. How comes he speaks perfect English with other mothers from abroad? Not with me, however.) Come on, I say, 1. she gets slapped, 2. she starts bleeding, and you don’t know? Blank look. That’s when I freak out. My voice starts breaking. You always scold her when she does anything wrong. She gets punished for any little thing. She always gets the blame. How comes you don’t say anything to the others? (This is not the first time we’ve had this sort of unpleasant exchange. I know he doesn’t like my daughter. She occasionally misbehaves as many other children in the group. But she is Black and they are white. She always gets the blame. Almost obvious: faults are not tolerated. Her sheer presence is a fault. And I am this sort of paranoid mother who sees racism everywhere. Too easy.) I can’t hold my tears. I drag my daughter away swearing in my mother tongue what would be understandable in any Western language. Now I am at fault, going temperamental as I am supposed to be as a southern Italian. It happens again and again. The blank face of racism. The trap.

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