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Elise Sep 2nd, 2001 08:00 AM

African American in Italy
As an African American travelling to Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice) in October, what can I expect in terms of attitude? I must admit I have some concerns about being treated other words being discriminated against because of the color of my skin. Would like to hear about your experiences. Thank you.

Pickens Sep 2nd, 2001 08:47 AM

Oh come on, I don't know! Elise was asking a very valid and intellegent questions and you respond with a very ignorant response! <BR> <BR>I am Irish-American and proud to be a "hyphenated" American. I love my Irish heritage and being proud to be Irish in no way is a knock against America. so quit with the racist knocks about the use of the term, African American. <BR> <BR>For Elise: I have not been to Europe yet, planning to go in 2002. There is a post below about "Any recent problems with racism" about Italy that stated there should be no problems. I have African American friends who have been to Switzerland and England and said they had a fab time - no problems at all. The one country that I have heard stories about, however, is Germany. Had a friend who went there and was fussed at in the street in German until he began speaking "American". The German appologized, but it was clear that the altercation was due to the fact that he was thought to be an emigrant. <BR>

x Sep 2nd, 2001 08:52 AM

Speaking with a minimal amount of experience, I would suggest that Europeans are somewhat more tolerant. Remember, the elite of Africa for a century tended to be educated in European universities; colonial or not, the effect was that blacks were not be assumed to be unimportant uneducated menials. Remember, Ghandi got a full education in Oxford, and South Africa was his first encounter with extreme racism. (Yes, I know he was otherwise-hyphened). Of course, much of this has changed in France and England in the last generation... don't know about Italy.

Anon Sep 2nd, 2001 09:01 AM

Interesting and very valid question. Italy is very homogeneous and for the most part people are not used to living with different cultures like in major US cities. They also don't have the political correctness we have here - for example it is acceptable to hold rallies for "Immigrants Go Home." As a Jewish American (not as apparent as your skin color but I guess apparent enough), often in conversation with people I just met I would be asked "Are you a Jew?" At first I'd be taken aback but then I considered the source. Italy is my favorite country in the world, but there is one thing I have to say - the shopkeepers, hotel staff, etc are often very rude... dont be quick to attribute that to your race, they are like that with everyone! <BR>Have a great trip!

Elise Sep 2nd, 2001 09:59 AM

It is individuals like (don'[email protected]) who I am concerned about. Such ignorance! Scary!! <BR> <BR>Thanks to all the others for your sincere and educated responses. <BR> <BR>I am a very open minded person...I enjoy travelling and meeting people of different cultures. However, I have seen on U.S. news recently the public display of hatred by SOME Italian sport spectators towards Black players on the Italian soccer team. My concern is whether that kind of attitude carries over outside of the sports arena. <BR>

grasshopper Sep 2nd, 2001 10:52 AM

Elise, Ignoring Don't Know's responses, which should be asked to everyone... not specifically African Americans... my travel partner is African American and we've spent a couple of months in Italy. She hasn't noticed any different at all. Maybe there is even less "attitude" than there is here in California. We read in one guide book once that Italian men were especially attracted to blondes and African American women. Just be friendly, open-minded, and careful not to tread on other's cultures and people respond in kind. Have a great trip!

Sandra Sep 2nd, 2001 12:17 PM

Hi, Elise - just thought I would confirm some of the other responses and let you know that it has been my experience that the Europeans in general are much more tolerant of differences in culture, language, and yes, skin color. As one of the respondents said, go with curiosity about the marvels you will see and respect for the people, and it will be returned. I have never found the clerks, hotel attendants, or any of the other service personnel in Italy to be rude, at all, nor to expect one to communicate in Italian. A few words, extended in a friendly fashion, are well-appreciated, however. You are going to some of the most beautiful places on the planet - Venice is a place I could return to again and again, as is Florence. Have a wonderful time!

Lisa Sep 2nd, 2001 01:30 PM

Elise, <BR>Ignore the ignorant poster who keeps replying to your question. You can expect to be better treated in Italy by virtue of the fact that you are American than a "native" African would be, regardless of their ability to speak the language. Believe me, many people will guess that you are American before you even open your mouth. Your style of dress, hair style, etc. is often just different enough for Europeans to be able to make the distinction. <BR> <BR>Your concerns about the racist behaviour in some football stadiums directed toward Black players is understandable. I should point out to "don't know" that the players who were racially taunted were often players who had been in Italy for a number of years and did speak the language. One of my favorite players, Lillian Thuram, declined to play for Lazio in Rome this season in part because of the racist behaviour of some of their "fans." <BR> <BR>I think this reprehensible behaviour has caused a lot of soul searching in Italy about true attitudes toward immigrants. As someone else stated, Italy has been a very homogenous country with far more emigration than immigration in its past. Only now are Italians starting to confront some of these racial issues. <BR>

Visitor Sep 2nd, 2001 01:44 PM

Friendly advice for a change. <BR> I was in Italy as recently as May. I am a black person as well. I did not get any racist attitudes from the Italians I met. I visited Rome, Naples, and the Riviera up north. I did not like Italy for other reasons; i.e.:too many crooks trying to rip you off, etc. How ever, I did not feel that I was discriminated against there at all. I do not see any reason to fear. Hope you have a better time than I did.

micia Sep 2nd, 2001 02:02 PM

Elise: I have been living here for many years. I have many close friends that are African American that live here as well. <BR>I agree with what Lisa (above post) wrote. <BR>We use to discuss the difference between living here and in the US. <BR>I can tell you they are all married to white italians and have children. <BR>They all say the same that they are treated better here than at home. <BR>I have noticed that when I am out with them shopping, that they are not treated any different than I. <BR>I see others on the street and never noticed any one treating them different. <BR>Like Elise said, usually before you even open your mouth, one can tell you are american. <BR>Also, the people here really were upset over the racism at the stadiums. <BR>The journalists really gave them a bad rap and everyone is glad. <BR>Since you know about this story, did you also notice how well those players fellow teammates stood up for them? <BR>If you happen to run into people that are rude while here, or try to rip you off, don't think it is becaue of your color, it will be because you are a tourist. <BR>I hope you have a great trip and not let your worried ruin it. <BR>

cmt Sep 2nd, 2001 05:52 PM

I don't THINK you'll have a problem. In general, Italians are not especially racist as a group, and I think may be LESS racist than many other nationalities. However, they may be more inquisitive than most and they definitely do stare, especially in small towns in the south. If you go to small towns off the beaten track they will certainly stare at you quite a bit. Just say a friendly "buongiorno" or, after 4p.m. or so, "buona sera" to everyone you pass on the street and everything will be fine. The stares are not hostile. I got them, too, and I look just like them.

Robin Sep 3rd, 2001 06:28 PM

If anyone is seriously interested in how African Americans are thought of in Europe, specifically France, This American Life on public radio recently re-ran a very interesting episode. You can listen to it via RealAudio at their web site (, Episode #165). The first part is David Sedaris' experiences adapting to living in Paris, which have nothing to do with race, but the third segment is an interview with a woman who had lived there full time for a number of years. Her experiences there and her perceptions of them relative to her life in New York speak volumes about American views of race. I found myself (a white woman) simultaneously grateful that she has found happiness and peace for herself, and irked that she so clearly didn't believe she could have it in the US. I would love to hear others' responses to this broadcast (but only if you listen to it first!)

Sylvia Sep 3rd, 2001 07:06 PM

Elise, <BR>I am an African American female who went to Italy in 1998 with one of my friends who is an Italian American female. We both had a great time and are going back with a couple of friends in 2 weeks. I did not feel I was treated differently. <BR>Enjoy yourself and expect a lot of flirting from the men :)

Anya Sep 4th, 2001 03:11 AM

I lived in Rome as a teenager for 3.5 years (earlier '90s). Granted, I'm not of African descent (Asian) but I think my experience is relevant. <BR> <BR>My experience was mostly positive but i can't get rid of the nagging memory of being teased, scoffed at, ridiculed or call it what you will by these small groups of male Italian teenagers who would walk by us cackling in very loud and exaggerated mock-Chinese (and no I'm not Chinese or even Taiwanese). This happened maybe 3 times. Those teenagers should be in their late-20s now - hopefully they've adopted more tolerant attitudes towards unsuspecting foreign visitors who were simply admiring the scenery of their otherwise intriguing country. <BR> <BR>It's obviously impossible to say that "Italians are like this..." - some are racist, some mildly prejudiced, some you find married to's probably like that in every country. Hopefully, you'll meet good more than bad wherever you happen to be.

Tony Hughes Sep 4th, 2001 04:49 AM

I dont think Europeans are any more tolerant than Americans. Italians can come over as rude because they have a tendancy to stare but I dont think it's the skin colour they're ogling. <BR> <BR>Elise, this may sound a silly question but what makes you an African-American? <BR> <BR>

grace Sep 4th, 2001 07:13 AM

Robin, I was thinking of exactly the NPR piece that you mentioned as I was reading this thread. Actually, I really enjoyed it--it's been a year or more since I heard it, but I remember it was very interesting how her experience evolved, especially as her French got better, so that she was mistaken as a native speaker (ie likely to be from West Africa). And I especially enjoyed the part earlier on about how she discovered there might be a downside to not being able to take advantage of the cultural stereotype... I agree w/ Robin; this is well worth listening to (entertaining, as well as enlightening).

Mary Sep 4th, 2001 09:00 AM

Elise, <BR> <BR>Three years ago, four of us travel for 3 weeks in Italy. "Us" is a white couple and a black/white couple. The interracial couple had your same concerns and expressed them to us (we are the white couple). They said they felt no hostility towards them in any of the major cities or the small towns in the country-side, or in any restaurant, museums, or any other place. They said it was like no one noticed them. <BR> <BR>So, I'd say go and have a great time.

xxx Sep 4th, 2001 04:23 PM

Tony Hughes <BR> <BR>African American refers to an American with African ancestory. It is similar to, as one poster stated above, calling oneself Irish American, Italian American, Polish American, etc. Pride in ones heritage does not negate national pride. What a person decides to call themselve is their business.

Candy Sep 4th, 2001 05:09 PM

I saw a picture last night, of my great grandmother coming over from Germany on the boat. I was proud, they came here learned english, owned homes, established themselves. They came here to bring up a family in America, so I may be American. I am an American, not a German-America. I would never insult my country. Blacks worked to hard, slaved to long, and do themselves a discrdit to refer to themselves as African Americans. And how ignorant for anyone to call a black skinned person in America, an African American, that person may be a visitor from France, jamaica, or England. How racist!

x Sep 5th, 2001 10:47 PM


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