Coon or Revolutionary: Mixed Girl with the Microphone, Whose Voice are you Amplifying?


First, a story.

She had dark brown hair and her eyes were the same, but shining. I remember that she smiled at me when she said hello, and cast her eyes downward as if somewhat embarrassed.

She looked nice, and I was glad to have a new colleague.

We didn’t speak much her first day. Hey, I was still relatively new to the kindergarten… learning the ropes, planning and executing the English lessons. She was absorbed with finishing her education. Down to the last 6 weeks, this internship was her ticket to becoming a German preschool teacher… a 3 to 4 year endeavor.

However, we did get a moment between lessons and lunch, when we took the kids out to the playground and as they ran around, I stood beside her and asked her about herself. 24, finished secondary school at the highest level, Italian blood. I told her about me, 22, studying ESL, American. Her eyes still held that embarrassment from when we’d met in the morning, but now they also showed exhaustion.

I asked her how her first day was going.

“I don’t know if this is for me,” She admitted.
“Really?” I was surprised, “I mean, yeah it’s a lot of work, but the kids are rewarding, don’t you think?” She said to me, “You know, maybe I’m just tired because it’s my first day.” I laughed, “Well, this job is definitely good birth control!”

Her embarrassed eyes grew cold and confused. There was a deeply awkward silence where I had expected to hear laughter, and she looked at me curiously, “Birth control?”

That threw me off completely. I thought perhaps we were having some lost-in-translation moment. “Antibabypille.” I said (which is, actually, the German word for birth control lol).

She said to me, “Yeah…. what is that?”

I looked at her blankly. “Antibabypille?!” She nodded…

I began to explain: “You know.. it’s the hormonal pill you can take every month so you don’t have to worry about getting one of these” — I pointed to the children — “when you have sex”.

The word sex caused her to cringe. “Oh!” She exclaimed, “No. I don’t know that. I’m not having sex.” She said the word like it was dirty. I thought to myself, Oh god what have I gotten myself into. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.  And she did, but not before adding, “God wants me to wait until I’m married” while flashing her purity ring.

Now for some people reading this story, they will know exactly what kind of person I had just encountered. But for those like my colleagues, this must sound baffling. My colleagues were absolutely unprepared for the fundamentalist tornado this chick was going to try and twist the kindergarten into during her 6 week stay.

During her time there, she quietly invited my American colleague (who also happened to be the only other Black person in the preschool) and I to her “birthday party” which just so happened to be at her church. She talked to us in private about her dreams of going to Uganda and saving those “poor people” with White Jesus. She went to her church almost everyday after work and talked frequently about visiting the church in America that her German church collaborates with. She brought in business cards with bible verses printed on them and handed them only to my American colleague and I — and our colleague Jessica*, who had graduated from the lowest school in Germany, the least educated out of all of us. These things were never done in front of my other Aryan colleagues, and I believe Jessica only saw snippets because her education status has classist implications. The Italian Intern was there for the Blacks, the Uneducated, and the Children. A true angel.

So why didn’t we say anything?

Well, we did.. kind of. First, the three of us talked amongst ourselves, exchanging stories and figuring out what she was up to. My American colleague wanted to see it as a joke, Jessica chose to ignore it, and I did too, although perhaps for other reasons than Jessie.

But on the Italian Intern’s final day at the kindergarten, shit went down.

My American colleague was teasing. He said, “Hey, let’s go to the club tonight to celebrate your last day!” The Italian Intern smiled with that embarrassment I had come to know very well. “You know I cannot go there.” She said.

“Why not? We’ll celebrate!”
“There’s bad energy in those places.”
“No there’s not.. I go there all the time and have a great time!”
“Okay, but… it’s not a place for… me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know… Christians.
My American colleague laughed, “I’m Christian. And girl, my mom’s as Christian as they get. She goes to the club every Saturday… and church every Sunday! Never misses!”

Jessie and I laughed but for the first time the embarrassment in the Italian Intern’s smile dissipated and what I saw next was something dark underneath. It was a sneer. My colleagues caught it too. The room grew hot.

“What?” He said, “What’s wrong?”
She was smug and rapid in response, “Nothing.”
“Christians can go to the club.” He said defensively.
“No…” She said, her voice softer now, attempting to guide him. “True Christians don’t go to the club.”
“Are you saying my mom’s not a true Christian?”

And this sparked an intense debate.

Now I have just given this entire conversation in English, but now imagine, this is a bilingual kindergarten taking an immersion approach, so actually the way it really went down was that she spoke in German, he spoke in English, Jessica sat silently, and I translated between them.

Up until this point, I was annoyed but cooperative, but the territory was turning uncomfortably close to a place I never wanted to return to.

My American colleague attempted to mend relations by making it a matter of “different denominations”.

“You see,” He said, “I’m Baptist. What are you?”
“Evangelisch.” She replied.
Now this is why you don’t have these conversations through a translator. Especially one from an “Evangelisch” background like the Italian Intern’s… because when my American colleague looked at me for the translation, I said, “She’s fundamentalist.”

She understood me completely.

“Why would you say something like that?” She asked me. I could hear the pain in her voice. But it was time.

I was plain: “Because that’s what you are. You’re a fundamentalist.”

She repeated her question. I kept steady, and calmly asked her the following:

“Do you believe the earth is 6,000 years old?”

She laughed. “Well do you really believe it’s millions of years old?!”

“Billions. Do you believe in evolution?”

She laughed. “Do you really believe we come from monkeys?!”

I smiled at her, “It’s a little more complex than that.”

I had one more.

“Do you believe that we are all going to hell?” I motioned at me, Jessie, and my American colleague.

“I….I….” She couldn’t say anything. And all I could say next was, “That’s fundamentalism. And I get it… I really do. But you spent these last 6 weeks so absorbed in ‘saving us’ that you didn’t even get to know us. Do you really think you could go to Uganda and save those people there with your God when you can’t even relate to the people here? Trust me when I say, I know that you are doing this out of love. Because when you look at us, you see us suffering in fiery eternities… and you know we are nice, good people. And that just doesn’t make sense. So now I’ll ask you… Could it be that maybe you’re the one that needs to re-evaluate your beliefs?”

That basically ended the conversation. Our Aryan colleague came in, and of course, this was one of those secret conversations, and it was time for her to go. She’d failed her internship, not because she was a fundamentalist, but because she genuinely was pretty bad with kids. After she left, we told the other colleagues about the conversation and they were truly disturbed and dumbfounded. No one could imagine her to be that way, and if Jessie and the American hadn’t heard her with their own ears, they wouldn’t either.

As they laughed and mocked her though, I sat silently. Solemnly. I wanted to go to the bathroom. I wanted to cry. Because what I had just said wasn’t really to her. What I had said was to the girl I used to be. The girl with the purity ring.

And if you can understand my pain with this story, then maybe you can understand how I feel talking about race sometimes with other mixed-Black people. Being mixed is like being in this in-between, where you deal with anti-Blackness on the regular but are often raised with the conditioning to block it out. You regurgitate white-supremacist rhetoric with conviction and can’t see how it’s actually you that’s missing the big picture. You think you have it all figured out, when really there are endless dimensions of reality you’ve had the privilege to dismiss. And then society hands you the microphone to speak for an entire diverse community.

That’s what I wish I could have said to the mixed-Black woman who wrote the shitty pro-Trump article I came across this afternoon before she sent it to the editor. Instead I was baited into clicking her disturbing work because she left out her biracial identifier and wrote as a Black Woman voting for Donald Trump… going on to tell readers her twisted reasoning and how if you’re a good nigger like her, you’ll do the same. It was as if she’d ripped the page right out of the Book of Coondom. The book I know so well.

What hurt me most about the article was the way she tried to disguise herself in order for her views to “resonate” as valid beliefs from the community. While we are not a monolith, her views were very much consistent with the views of a mixed-Black person, not a Black person (although, disclaimer, obviously coons come in all shapes and colors).

But I know what I’m talking about when I speak of this writer who I’ve never met before because I read her piece, and a few others, and I  recognize her the same way I could recognize the fundamentalist in front of me as soon as she flashed her purity ring. Because in another dimension I am that person. That was my reality. And therefore I can intimately understand those points of views… as fucked up as they are.

Being out of it, of course I sometimes want to dismiss them too. Take back their Black Cards. Call them coons. But our community is one of the most diverse on the planet, and while some people can respond to this nonsense that way, that’s simply not my identity. Like it or not, coons are in this too and as long as this society is rooted in white supremacy they will be given the microphone. They will be given platforms on Vice and CNN and The View to regurgitate white supremacist views in Blackface.

And so those of us with those same coon aesthetics have to be louder. When you’re given the microphone, whose voices will you amplify? If it’s not your more marginalized siblings, those more violently silenced, the only work you’re really doing is as an agent for The Establishment that’s inflicted oppression on People of Color for hundreds of years.

Sorry sis, but the answers to the economic crises of Black America is not to strike our immigrant siblings also oppressed by white supremacy. Similar to the Audre Lorde quote, it’s white supremacy that wants us to fight each other for the crumbs the system flicks down at us so that we never unite for the pie! But sis, you clearly didn’t get that. Have the privilege not to have to get that. Instead, you used your micro existence to perpetuate macro ideas of violent immigration reform so “our people” have better access to low-end jobs. Does that idea of “liberation” actually make sense to you?

Donald Trump is her idea of liberation in America the same way White Jesus was the Italian Intern’s idea of salvation in Uganda. Wrong.

Another of my sisters caught wind of my disturbance (see: twitter rant) and asked me a pretty simple question:

I linked it, with my commentary, and now with this post, because that’s my role as a mixed-Black person. I want to connect with all my siblings of the Diaspora for the purposes of creating and healing together, but that also means I have to listen to my siblings further on the fringes, and stay on my ballpark people. My very nuanced group in our very diverse community. Those of us in the in-between, who are far too often, down in Coonville.

That’s why I talk about colorism in my feminism. That’s why I have to call out my mixed-Black sister who tried to erase our sisters’ work in order to generate clickbait for Vice.

That’s why I’m on the side that believes mixed-Black people should identify as such. Not to lose or distance our Blackness, but to recognize our privilege. So shit like the article I read today can’t get that Black Stamp, too.

There are enough of us mixed-Black folk awake and speaking out that there’s no excuses for this. I am thankful for Amandla Stenberg, Colin Kaepernick, Jesse Williams, and Zendaya… but every now and then we have to load up the truck and head into Coonville to choke up or drown out the Zoe Saldanas, Don Lemons, and Stacey Dashes. I linked it because that’s my role.


Hashtag know when to be quiet 2k16

An Unknown Untitled Love



Can I put on your glasses?
I wanna blur your face
The way you blurred my heart
Thanks again

Vision obscured,
I can still make out your smile
Those lips full and charged
fully charged
the potential to carve back in
the details
I’ve sanded beneath the surface

I watch your eyes on me
dark and honest
Who are you?

Bodies moving together
Souls spinning fast
And then the blur turns to Black
A kiss
An eruption in the darkness
My whole body is tingling
from the sensation of your touch

Inside of me you find
My love
My anger
My truth
I find your hands at my neck
Only for a second
But it’s enough
You’ve touched the unknown

My legs tangle around yours
As you branch out inside me
Find me
And I find you


Is this real?
Is this right?

Does the answer really matter?

Just a preview, you say
Just a preview, I give
Just a preview,
playing in my head
Over and over again

We found each other
when — We — what
who — Found — how
where — Each — why
Other Other Other
is this magic or witchcraft. . .

What’s the difference . . .


Why do White Mothers Need to Caricature their Black Daughters in order to Bond?



Yesterday this popped up on the TL. I checked around the post to see if my friend had any additional commentary, but it was just your typical re-post from some wannabe-funny page. With thousands upon thousands of likes. I clicked out.

My head wanted to feel the mob emotion: Cute. But something about this photo made my belly feel so weird. Knotted. Nahh, I thought.

So I posted it to twitter to see what my siblings thought, and this is what we got:


85%  of voters said nah, belly weird.

I felt emotionally validated. Some of my siblings even RTd with their own commentary which helped give me language to navigate my emotions.


I was feeling so many ways, but mostly I kept thinking of my own white mother and the way she used her kids to appropriate Black Culture, proudly standing with her Black Children’s Posse behind her… FROWNING. Just like this little girl in the picture.

It’s overkill. It’s ugly regardless of intent. It’s ruining her own culture for her. Just no.

So when someone asked me why it made me uneasy, I thought I had my answer. But as I began to respond, I found myself again in reflection. And I figured it out.

There are so many things coming together in this photo, but I think for me this is what it triggered.

Why I, Black daughter of a White Woman, vote this photo NAH MY BELLY WEIRD NO:

On the first day of kindergarten my mom dropped me off at the white school across town, like BYE FELICIA. I walked into an all white classroom and the kids let me feel it. I remember the girls didn’t want to play with me and when I got home and my mother asked me why not, I just asked her why I wasn’t white too? And I remember crying… trying to understand why I wasn’t white like her, wasn’t white like the other kids. Why couldn’t I be? Then wouldn’t they play with me?

When I look at this picture, I see this little girl with a sad face on her first day of kindergarten and I think about that. And I think about the way my white mother couldn’t help me when I cried to her that first day. She couldn’t help me because she didn’t understand what I was internalizing about the world and myself. It’s a struggle she’s never had to face, so, like a white woman, she dismissed the issue entirely.

The first day of kindergarten was one of the biggest moments in my life to realize I was not like my white mother and had to be quiet about it.

So for me, this picture is about how white women think they’re finally “in” because they have Black Children but do not empathize with the experiences of their Black children. This picture is about how white women, in their apathy and emotional laziness, often inflict the pain back on Black People as a witty mother’s punchline. This is about how white women erase, dismiss, and caricature their Black Daughters pain as a way to “bond”.

I wonder when this picture was taken. I wonder what this white mother is doing for her Black daughter besides using her as an all access pass to Black Culture for a cheeky photo-op. Teaching her daughter to find white women appropriating Black rhetoric as cute. Something she’s a part of. Even if she frowns. Especially if she frowns.

Thumbs down.

Part 2: The Sacredness of the Safe Space


5 Days Ago, I wrote about a racial profiling incident I witnessed while doing a photoshoot in the park. It’s a story that resonated among People of Color and white people although for many different reasons. I hope this post will answer some questions and give both sides a little bit of direction.

Here we go.

So what happened after I walked away? Did I ever see The Gambian again? And how do you cope after an experience like that?

There were so many levels to the police encounter in the park that I needed to process, from the interaction itself to all of the structural issues the confrontation exposed before my eyes. I was triggered. And for days, I had flashbacks. I worried every time I saw a police officer. That they would recognize me. Get me. “Now you’re getting a kontrolle!”

I thought about The Gambian.

The poise of his surrender. His words: “It isn’t the first time.”
If you think about all of the things implied that were not his first time, but a regular occurrence, a part of his life:

A reminder that his skin is a
social stamp of disapproval.

How did these thoughts about skin get here? And more importantly, how could they manifest to these frontiers?

When the police finally let me go, The Gambian was waiting for me ahead on the path. I went to him.

“They let me go. Then I saw them come for you and all I could think is ‘I hope I didn’t get her in trouble!'”

I thanked him for waiting.

I gave him his phone back. We hugged and exchanged names and numbers. And then after a moment something peculiar happened: we both suddenly and awkwardly remembered that we didn’t actually know each other, and that we were now only connected by this violent experience.

This is why Safe Spaces are vital for People of Color. Day-in and day-out we are dealing with the aggressions inflicted on us by a white supremacist society. From being invasively stared at in public spaces, to followed in stores, to run up on by different branches of “authority” under the guise of “objectivity” and “normalcy”, it’s a lot to cope with.

Often here in Germany (although from those I’ve spoken with I think this is reflective of much of Western Europe) we are alone in these situations, and more often than not, no one around us stands up to protect us let alone even acknowledges what they are truly witnessing us go through.

In the United States, we can find each other. There are many majority-Black environments in the US, so despite our internal issues, these are visually communal spaces. By that I mean that here, in contrast, I am often the only Black person on the train, in the store, on the street. My external word is very isolating, and when you throw alienating experiences on top of that, by the end of the day I’m exhausted and alone. Drained.

And that’s me in my identity intersecting on loads of privilege.

I saw a glimpse into the life of The Gambian’s. What does a day in his shoes look like?

The thought overwhelms me.

This is why Safe Spaces are vital for People of Color. Places where we can find each other, come together, focus on our mental health, nurse our wounds, and heal together. This isn’t a new idea. It’s the common conclusion many of us come to when living in such a hostile environment.

So some friends and I began organizing a Safe Space in our city for People of the African Diaspora. The city’s first event by and for People of the African Diaspora.

An open mic. For only us. Only our voices.
A night where the silence is silenced and Black stands in the spotlight.

I told The Gambian to come and spend time there. Meet some new faces that don’t look like the ones who’d just kontrolled us. “I will be there.”

We shook hands and I went to my next appointment. I say that so eloquently, but really it was a dinner date with another American I’ve met here. She’s a super cute New Yorker with an obsession for crispy duck summer rolls.

I walked into the restaurant. Everyone was white, suited, and drinking good alcohol. I’ve been to this place a million times, but on this day the juxtaposition of the environment was jolting.

“Just a second!” The waiter said from the bar, “I know who you’re here for!”  And he led me to the only other Black person in the restaurant.

“Why are you late?” She asked me. I sat down and told her everything.

My privilege and oppression do not live separated from each other. I can’t separate what happened in the park that day to the nice evening afterwards in a fancy restaurant surrounded by the same people, who, in another costume, would be the same ones down my throat. And so, as someone who tries more and more to understand the relationship between the contradictions of my identity, I am working to create these Safe Spaces that I speak of.

Two weeks later, I threw my ukulele in my backpack and headed to a local cafe.

The night had come.

My friends and I had managed to organize this event through a conversation with the cafe-manager, the chef, and local Black People we’d met through either different organizations or meet-ups, on the street, in the train, in the park, or… for example…

When my friend was accused by store-workers of trying to return a used shirt (we all can see the micro-aggression here), he left with his money back in pocket and The Cameroonian who was re-stocking the shelves and had overheard everything.

Turns out, The Cameroonian is a poet.

And that’s how things went. By showtime, we had a collective of creatives from Haiti to Eritrea, Cameroon to Germany. The United States. The Gambia.

The cafe had no idea what we had planned. And we wanted it that way. Working with white people who often want to co-opt, we kept them in the dark as much as possible. They offered us promotion. We turned it down. We worked from a strictly grassroots approach and in their [white-savior] eyes, they saw a flop.

When I walked into the cafe on Event-Night, the tables were still spread out, white patrons sat drinking fair-trade coffee, no chairs were set for the performances, and there was no concern on the workers’ part.

I began to grow nervous.

But as time continued, slowly our community of communities began to file in. And I was amazed at what I saw next: The immediate segregation.

The main door splits the cafe down the middle, and Black People instantly went to the right, white people to the left. So any bullshit about “I don’t see color” can kiss my Black ass.

But something even more amazing happened on the Black Side. You see, unlike the white side who were mainly Germans and definitely all Western, us on the Black Side were of the Diaspora. We are not a monolith. We are a group of people from vastly different cultures, languages, geography. And it can feel pretty weird coming from a world that alienates us while we’re already alone to suddenly a space of unity. We were physically united, but psychologically still very much triggered, fragmented, and confused. While we waited for others, we slowly began exchange, excited but shy to get acquainted with the people around us who were, on one hand strangers, and on the other intimately linked to our own identities, histories, freedoms, and limitations.

As more and more Black people came in, the energy of the space began to transform, and many white patrons left. A white woman walked in and asked me, “Is there some sort of event going on here tonight?” I smiled, “Yes, We are having an Open Mic for the African Diaspora.” I kid you not, this woman yelped. Yelped. And hurried back out the door.

A half hour in, my friend made the first announcement: “Ok! We are ready! Let’s move these tables, get these chairs, and begin!” Together, The Diaspora got up, re-organized the room, and sat down. In the front. The white people who remained quietly sat in the back.

My friend broke the silence, opened up the night, his words vibrating into the air:

Those of us who brainstormed and organized this event all agreed that togetherness – and more specifically Black Unity – should be at the heart of this event. Understand that tonight you have the privilege to witness Black Communion amongst African Peoples from across the Diaspora through song, dance, poetry, food, and so much more. We expect you all to be respectful of participants in the safe space and platform we have provided not only for our performers, but for all of the brothers and sisters here tonight.


I was the cute girl enthusiastically clapping at everything, getting everyone else to join me. We started with a game: My friend went through the different places of the Diaspora, we shouted when represented, and laughed when he said “Afro-Asians, give it up!”.
We sang children songs in Swahili (me), learned about Cameroon through pictures and poems, listened to Caribbean Spoken Word.

We also had four Signers present: A Deaf Afrogerman-Ghanian, 2 German SL Signers, and one American SL Signer. We did an exercise engaging the audience by interpreting words from Spoken English and German, to American SL and German SL, again into Adamorobe SL. Adamorobe Sign Language is an endangered Indigenous Sign Language used in the Adamorobe village in Ghana. Our Deaf brother had learned about the community in the land of his roots, and intrigued, shared its charm with us.

It was beautiful.

During intermission, we had dinner. The fresh food was prepared by a local Congolese woman, the chef who I had spoken with. I told her of what we dreamed to create at our event, “so make the food as though we are coming to your house.” She had nodded, hugged me. As the cafe workers brought out the food, buffet-style, we pushed all of the fragmented tables together, and created one giant table in the middle of the room. The Table for the Siblings of the Diaspora. The white people were respectful and sat at remaining tables on the outskirts. We got our food, sat down beside one another, and enjoyed the feast together. Having great conversations, making connections, expelling hearty laughter.

There was a moment while eating where I looked at The Gambian and thought of our day at the park. I was so happy to see him again, enjoying himself unapologetically. It seemed like life had come full circle.

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

As we ate, I saw 4 Black People through the window, outside stopped and looking at the Chalkboard at the entrance:


Come celebrate Black Love with us!

They caught my eyes. I waved them in. When they came in and saw what was going on, they said, “We saw this online and thought we’d check it out. So cool! We’ll be back with our guitar in 17 minutes!”

Then they came and after dinner they turned the stage into a full-on reggae concert.

The night had everything. A Full House. Poetry. Music. Games. Food. Connection.

At the end of the night, so many people were coming up to me and my friends, thanking us, asking us when the next event would be. One person told me they’ve been in this city 17 years, and had never experienced anything like what we had created by coming together. To feel safety. To breathe. To laugh. Together. Can you imagine? 17 years?

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

I’ve since met three more Gambians.

We may not have the same daily experiences because of the prismatic intersections of our identities, but our freedom is dependent on our desire to understand each other and cooperate with one another. From that, I believe liberation will manifest, but that takes strong mental health, which takes self-care, which takes safe spaces.

This is why Safe Spaces are Vital for People of Color.

Our stories don’t end with police brutality, housing discrimination, or public microaggressions. That’s all simply the world we navigate in at this time.

Our stories lie in the moments we make together.
The way we absorb violence and emit peace.

As long as we breathe, justice is inevitable.

open mic

I give My Last 22 Minutes of Year 21 to My Sister, My Love, My Best Friend



Year 21.

It’s been three years since we celebrated together
Do you remember?

We thought 20Uhr meant 10:00pm and arrived at the end

of the jazz concert.

We went to a bar and took a birthday shot
and walked home along the canals.

Went to bed.

I dreamt about everything I would do in these years
that are now in between us.

We’ve talked about our dreams
We’ve taken steps.
We’ve hoped, we’ve cried, we’ve screamed


On the last day of Year 21 the world stopped to listen.

An electric ripple
it’s momentum
us . . .

Tomorrow is Year 22.

The year of connecting and creating

The Paradigm Shift we speak of.

Tonight I take a shot alone
make this Birthday Wish for Black Lives


Everyone knows
Birthday wishes come true

Year 22.

I will see you soon.


I Just Saw this Picture and I’m So Disturbed. Because it’s Me.


13653430_1070638483027630_2650636656912865440_o-1 This morning The Love Life of an Asian Guy posted this picture on facebook with the following commentary:

This is one of the most powerful images I’ve seen in years.

You’re peeking directly into the laboratory of white supremacy. A system that will send TWO men in full riot gear to arrest ONE Black woman for one purpose: give her a criminal record.

If she is charged (most Black protestors are) for participating in a peaceful protest, she’ll be forced to disclose her new criminal record on ALL job applications and applications for rent.

That one small change can limit where she works, how much she can get paid, and where she can rent.

The implications are LIFE CHANGING. This act of arresting peaceful Black protestors is SYSTEMATIC RACISM AT WORK, BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES.

“You’re a Harvard Law graduate? 7 years of experience? Nice! Ooh, it looks like you have a criminal record… Sorry!”

I was immediately triggered. Germany. I was back in the park. A few weeks ago. It was the final day of shooting and I was glad because I’m not a model and only agreed to help out a friend, and while I was grateful to wear cool vintage clothes and feel “pretty”, after three long days I was ready to be done.

We had chosen the park because the pictures were for the summer collection, and we worked for about 2 1/2 hours. There were a number of people in the park, mostly white men who gawked. There was an older white druggie-looking man on a bench away from us. In German, you can use the word “Penner”. It’s not a nice term (it means literally “bum”), but the guy was dirty and had all his shit with him and was clearly a drug user.

Despite the climate, we ignored everyone and kept taking our pictures.

A few minutes into the shoot, a Black man sat down across from us. He was the only other Black person in the park aside from me, and it was clear that he was continental.

We kept working.

Then, about a half hour in, the police came around on bikes.

Now, the park is a known place for police checks. They claim it’s to crack down on drug dealers. Well, clearly there was a suspect. But they circled through and left.

As we continued the shoot, I kept an eye on my brother, but he wasn’t bothered with me. He glanced a few times, but mostly played on his phone, made a couple calls, and chilled. I was glad the police left him alone. I was glad the police left the Penner alone too. Police, just leave us *all* alone and let us enjoy the park, dammit.

So, we finished up. 2 1/2 hours later, I changed back into my clothes. The photographer packed up her camera and we were right about to leave when the police circled through again. My heart stopped. The fuck?

They went straight past the Penner to the Black guy.

I was frozen.

They were aggressive as soon as they approached him. I couldn’t hear their words, but I could see their body language.

How would you like to chill in a park for two hours and suddenly have two strangers who clearly don’t like you, in uniforms with guns, suddenly all up in your face?

Well, the African man didn’t like it either. I watched how his body language changed too. He slouched back on the bench. I could see his eyes rolling. I could see him slowly pull out his ID. I could see the white officers, hands on hips, demanding more of him. I could see the African man scoff. Shake his head. I could see the police switch their weight back and forth between feet, agitated, and feeding off the agitation of the African man’s. The gestures grew bigger on both sides.

I was worried.

I watched the police take the man’s bag and go through it. And when I say I watched, I mean we all did. Everyone in that park who had also been chillin the whole time. All I could think is: We’ve all seen this guy do nothing except chill like the rest of us. Why are they humiliating him? Why are we letting them?

Except I knew why.

I stayed because I was waiting for it to be over. But it didn’t end. I watched them put on gloves and make this man take off his shoes. I watched them touch his feet. And then, I watched them move their grubby gloved hands to his hair and start going through each of his dreadlocks.

I don’t know what images hit me first. Images of police brutality in the United States, Images of TSA “randomly” checking Black people at the airport (cough* me), but to be honest I think it wasn’t either.

As I’ve said, I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand. In Thailand there is a very, very strong culture around the head and the feet. The head is seen as a sacred place, the feet (furthest from the head, and often bare over there) are seen as dirty. You never put your feet near a Thai person, especially their head. You never even touch their head. Not even to be affectionate, not even to children.

To do so would justify aggression.

So to watch white men violate a Black man like this, in front of everyone, from a social place where the Black man can do nothing sent an eruption through my body and I….


An aching, angry, hopeless, vengeful scream.

And once it came out, all respectability melted. I grabbed my phone, turned on the camera, and walked over.

At first the officers didn’t get it. They didn’t connect that I could have screamed because of them. Typical white thinking. Typical “It’s not happening to her. Why should she– or anyone else– care about this Black man?”

It was only when I started talking to him. Telling him, loudly, for everyone else too: I am sorry this is happening to you. This should not be happening to you. We should not be allowing this to happen to anyone. We have all seen you sitting here enjoying your day in the park like the rest of us. We know why they chose you. I am sorry.

The man said back to me: It isn’t the first time. Thank you.

The police were angry. “You are not allowed to record! Give us your phone NOW!”

I said: I am not doing anything illegal. I am just making sure that my brother remains unharmed.

One of the officers tried to snatch my phone, but I avoided it. “If this goes online, you will be charged! It is illegal to record us!”

A white man walked up, “Why are you telling her that? That’s a lie! That’s a lie! She has the right to record you. Why are you lying?”

Other white people were getting upset too. I sat down beside my brother. The truth is, my phone had run out of storage and I wasn’t recording anything after the first minute. But it was power. The only power we had.

They walked away to run his information. I just stayed with him. Tried to make the moment a little lighter. I asked him if he ate breakfast. Yes. I asked him where he was from.

The Gambia.

I had another appointment and needed to go. But I feared for him. Especially now that a “real scene” had been made aka white people got involved. Because I got involved. That proximity to whiteness. I watched it play out.

I asked him for his phone number. As he tried to give it to me, the police came back. “No! No!” They screamed. “You better not exchange information! Give us your phone right now!”

I said, “I just want to be able to check in with my brother later and make sure he is safe. We die out here.” They laughed, “This is Germany, not America.”
I said, “It’s not just in America. Oury Jalloh.”

They ignored me. One of the officers kept trying to snatch our phones. What were we supposed to do? What could we have done? Run? Leaving the scene. Pushed his hand away? Assaulting an officer. So here we are cowering on this bench trying to avoid his hands. It was crazy.

Finally The Gambian just gave me his phone. “Take it. I will call you from it later.”

“You better not take his phone!” The officer yelled, “It’s evidence!”

“Evidence of what?” We argued back and forth for a bit, the location of the phone growing ambiguous.

Then I got up, and left. The photographer — a Person of Color — and I talked about what we’d just witnessed.

She said, “You know… I just got my citizenship. Today.”

And that was when it hit me: I am up against immigration right now.

I turned back around. At this point, we were far enough away that I felt a little safer. I watched a van pull up to the bench where The Gambian sat. I thought about Freddie Gray. I felt panic.

But as I watched, the officers were not after him anymore. They were climbing onto their bikes. They were heading towards… us!


The one officer who had tried to snatch our phones was biking hard, red-faced. I’d never seen intention so clearly on an officer’s face — to get me. And that’s what he said as his bike skidded in front of me. In a thick German accent he screamed, “Now you’re getting a kontrolle!”

Now, I write this out including my emotions, but through the whole ordeal I took the poise approach. I was calm and played up my Cuteness. My Americanness. My privilege.

“Why are you controlling me?” I asked them, “What did I do wrong?”
“Disorderly conduct and stealing evidence!”
“He gave me his phone from his hand. That’s not evidence.” I looked at the other officer, “You know what he’s saying isn’t even real.” The officer nodded. “Yeah, but it’s what he wants. He’s the one doing this.”

I wish I was kidding. I think if I wasn’t dealing with all this shit from the Immigration Office based on rules they’ve just made up, I wouldn’t believe that institutions just make up rules and then charge you for breaking them. But I’ve been dealing with it from so many sides… I’m still processing how chaotic this system is. Remember, this post is one story. I haven’t really blogged in almost two months. It’s because this is just one story. Of many.


I don’t walk around with my passport. I told them that. I gave them my student ID. I let them “control” me, and the whole time I talked about racism. Why did you choose that man instead of The Penner? How many Black people do you stop every day? Why?

And, uniform or not, these are men. White men. Who want nothing more than to talk to a pretty girl. And talk they did. So the photographer and I got strategic and she took Hot Head and I talked with the others. At this point, we’d gone from two officers, to five.

The photographer later told me that the officer in charge of the kontrolle told her he was charging me with disorderly conduct because I “didn’t respect him.” Boiled down, he was using his power to humiliate me and possibly fuck up my visa status because I scratched his overblown ego. That’s what Love Life of an Asian Guy is talking about in his fb post.

On my end, I learned more general facts about the power of the police here. I learned that they get their orders from the city and the city allows them to stop anyone— at random — and they need no reason at all. Let me repeat that: The police do not need any reason to stop someone. They can pick anyone. And the person must comply. Non-compliance is an offense.

I asked them how many people they picked that looked like them? They refused to answer.

In America, we have a major problem. But on the books, we at least bullshit. Here there is no cover. They are open about it:  We don’t need a reason, we pick, and we’re the police. So ha!

It truly felt like I was talking to giant children.

As they ran my information, I asked them what the alternative thing to do was. For “next time”.

“What should I do? I can’t call the police on the police! What should I do?”

This was their genuine response:

“If you see us harassing someone — just scream! Don’t you see everyone in this park? If we are really harassing someone, just scream, and everyone will come and stop us.”

It was incredulous. I waited a moment to see if it was a joke, but they were serious. At this point, I am staring back at four Aryan officers.

I looked around. “These people? These people? You do know this is the same place where the holocaust happened.”

Their jaws dropped. There was a split-second where I thought they’d kill me. But they knew it was true, so they replied with “Oh come on!”

Eventually, a friend with a lawyer-bro arrived on the scene and they gave me back my ID while she de-escalated the situation. They told my friend that they will write an internal report because “the public got involved. We will receive calls about this disturbance.” The report reads that I interrupted a kontrolle and refused to follow orders.

It will not talk about their aggressive manner. It will not talk about how just *picked* the only Black person in the park to harass. It will not talk about how the only thing, I, the Ausländerin, interrupted was them from inflicting humiliation on another human being. It will not say how they refused to give me any names or badge numbers so that I could file my own report.

The whole point of the ordeal was to “teach me a lesson”. To give me so much shit for standing up that I will think twice next time before “challenging” them. Or that it fucks me over and there is no next time for me to decide to stand up or keep my head low to survive.

In short, the implications of the kontrolle could be life changing, and the act of kontrolling me (and my Brother) in itself was systematic racism at work.

The image that Love Life of an Asian Guy posted is a reflection of *Western* culture, The United States is simply the archetype.

Like I said in the beginning, this was three days into an intense photo shoot, and I was tired. This is the last picture before the police came back around.


When I look at it now, I see all the other layers of exhaustion I felt that day and continue to feel. Tired of wondering if I’m going to witness harassment or be the victim of it. Tired of being the only one to stand in a world full of people sitting on the bench while the person next to them lives an existence of uncertainty. Tired of oppressive systems perpetuated by intellectual laziness and apathy.


But it’s not over.

Part 2: The Sacredness of the Safe Space

It’s the 4th of July. Big Whoop.


It’s been 6 or 7 years since I’ve celebrated the 4th of July.


Living in Germany for the last five has had something to do with it, but even during my last few years in America something changed. My family, caught up in their tangled lives, stopped having the annual bbq, and honestly– what is the 4th of July other than a bbq and some fireworks?

Oh. Yeah.^^

And we still see the remnants of that truth today.

For example: This video. I’ve seen it before, but it’s recirculating right now because of the holiday. It’s supposed to be “funny”, but when I see the fear in this child’s eyes, I know it runs so much deeper than the superficial chuckle it’s supposed to evoke.

That fear is ancestral.

Since their inception as “patty rollers”, the police have always been an institution vital to maintaining “American Independence” through the capture, imprisonment, and (often) torture and murder of Black and Brown bodies… Is it really that funny? Should we light the grill now?

Or this video of an Indigenous Woman burning sage — a sacred ritual to clear bad energy — attacked by police who rip it out of her hands and arrest her while a crowd chants “LET HER GO”. This video is not even 24 hours old and reflects 400 years of brutal imagery of the forced relocation of Native Peoples by the American government.

So how far have we come actually? Where are the hot dogs?


This one popped up on facebook too. I screenshot it because I think the comment left under it is important. It says: Lest we forget the endless Cuban, Central and South American, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese (Peoples) slaughtered by Uncle Sam.

So many millions of people are tied to “American Independence” because of colonization and war. This isn’t a day to celebrate. It’s a day to mourn.

When your bbq chicken is more important than the millions of people whose lives have been taken (either physically, psychologically, or socio-economically) by the occupation of “The United States of America”,  don’t add insult to injury. Do your colonizer thang, boo. Light it up.

I’m on the other side.