WORDS BY YVONNE KONÉ AS TOLD TO JEN SMITH & CHARLOTTE RUDGE
Although the US is far from tiny Denmark, and some might feel the situation on the other side of the Ocean is not relevant to them, racism is racism and sadly it is still present today on so many levels, subtle or direct.
The perception of what is beautiful is sadly still very squared and one-sided. That’s one of racism’s many ugly faces. Hate and violence is another.
From the moment my mother declared she was expecting a child with a Black man, she knew this was not going to be easy.
The first time my father visited us in Copenhagen,
he-and we as a family-was shouted at.
I remember the first time I became aware that some people did not like me, simply because of my color. I was three years old.
I remember the feeling of
being completely isolated
for the longest time, after
we moved to a small city.
I remember random men addressing me by pulling my hair, asking if it was fake (the last time it happened was less than six months ago). I remember people shouting monkey, the N-Word, go home etc. I remember I wished that I would wake up being white one day. I remember the first time I met my father’s African friends in Paris. I remember feeling home and not home at all. I remember the look in the eyes of my son telling me he did not like when children called him the N-word, or when adults would address him differently in front of his white, blonde friends. Sadly, I still see this look in the eyes of all my colored friends today, and I know that no explanation is needed.
Today I feel extremely proud of my color and my genes. I LOVE Black culture, music, beauty, hair, skin, feistiness and style.
But it took me some time, and these days It makes me sad to know how many people around the Globe are still growing up in the belief that they are inferior because of their color.
For me this time is about George Floyd and an endless list of Black people who lost their lives in a degrading and unjust way. It is about bringing focus to a dark side, that still exists on so many hidden and visible levels.
It’s about my family, Johanna, Bror, Hasse and Jeuru. It’s about standing up for my own origin, my father Siaka Koné. It’s also about acknowledging the loneliness my mother must have felt, and all the offenses she had to accept.
I’ve been thinking about the future, and as a mother
I am of course thinking about my children’s future.
My children, especially the one who looks most African, will probably continue to experience racism, be it direct or indirect. But here in tiny Denmark, I don't feel they would be in danger like they would be in the US because of the way they look. My concerns are about their identity formation. I hope they will always feel proud of their African heritage, no matter if it is far from their life here in Denmark.
I hope that soon the general picture of the world will be much more diverse.
Everyone needs to see other people who reflect them. I hope it will be more normal to see people of color everywhere, and not just when it's in fashion. For many years I have seen my children reaching out and being drawn to much more diverse cultures like it’s the most natural thing. I hope they will keep on being curious about other cultures and colors.
Race is a very complex issue. I think a big part comes down to feeling just as worthy as the people you are surrounded by, when your genes and heritage made you look different.
When you are told by society—even if it’s simply by being left out—that you are not as worthy, it’s important to connect with people who understand how that feels. Do your best to shape a new narrative. It definitely takes time, but my hopes are high.
Images courtesy of Yvonne Koné