I keep having these astonishingly reflective moments of contrast living here in Chile when compared to my US life. There is so much new construction going on in my neighborhood and a whole new subdivision of homes have sprung up since my first arrival in Fall 2013. Well, with this new collection of homes came a brand new street next to the house I am renting that cuts more than half of my walk time to campus. It’s partitioned off by a thick black cloth as it seems the streets have not been open to traffic. No biggie, I’m not a car so I just walk under the tarp. Typically, no one gives a care as during the day I see other folks walking under the tarp as well. However, we are in a Chilean holiday at the university starting with Our Lady of Mt. Carmel last Thursday until next Monday the 27th. No state agencies where open today and I took my travel route as per usual. This time, a security guard stopped me to let me know that I shouldn’t be taking my route as the area was completely closed. I spoke to him in Spanish and explained how I during the regular week daily take the route. He engaged me explaining that since there were no construction workers today, they are discouraging pedestrian travel through the area. We continued to converse in a very pleasant manner and I explained to him that I lived in the house on the corner and it’s such a short walk for me, especially at night when I come home alone. I then asked him if his concern was about possible burglary of items from the homes they are building (that happened when my home was being built back in the US) and he said yes. Two which I responded with a charming smile and a giggle explaining to him in Spanish, “Señor, yo no soy Ladrona!” (I’m not a thief). We both laughed and he basically gave me the please “carry-on” signal and I was on my way.
Sports House Video
I mention this because as I was walking I thought of Sandra Bland and her death in the United States as she engaged US police officers. I thought to myself, how would that same scenario played out for me if I was walking in a white neighborhood in an area where I wasn’t supposed to be and encountered some psychologically unstable “flashlight cop” or police officer that wanted to teach me a lesson. Would he have engaged with me in the light banter I had with the Chilean security guard or would I had been spoken too disrespectful, and responded in kind, resulting in my possible death?
#IfIDieInPoliceCustody is such an untenable concept for me here in Chile, but an everyday possibility for black people—and now more specifically black women and children—in the United States. I wish I had Oprah Winfrey type money, because I would make arrangements for every black person in the United States to have a chance to live abroad in a country that doesn’t hold such overt and violent racist hostilities towards black citizens. Living in both Chile and the US has so changed my perspective on issues of race, life, and human rights. I often felt guilty when abroad because of a number of reasons. Primarily because I had temporarily escaped the psychological and overshadowing burden of US racism here; in fact more often than not my experience here with Chileans has been like being amongst family.
Talca, Maule, Chile
I know about racial tensions in Chile and the troubles faced by the Mapuche populations in the South. I am not naïve that prejudice and bigotry exists all over the world. However, US racism is a “special” kind of animal in light of our history of Chattel Slavery. It literally makes me sick at times to see how our people endure at the hands of white supremacy racism that permeates practically every aspect of everyday life in the United States.
That’s pretty much all I want to say at this time. I had expected to do more blogging as I am here to finish writing up my PhD dissertation. But, the data analysis has been a little slower than expected and hanging out and loving on my friends here has caused me some distractions, but these are the types of distractions I welcome and love. The dissertation will get written too. However, I’m going to seize the moment and enjoy my experiences and cariños. Here’s some pics from my month long return to mi otro país. Being here to experience our America Cup win was Major SWEET!! Chi Chi Chi le le le ¡Viva Chile¡ #BlackLivesMatter
Why can’t the sense of human dignity I have come to know living in Chile as a black woman, also be available to all blacks living in the United States?