Turkish people aren’t racist, but

. . . they do make some bizarre comments.
Here’s my short list:
I’ve often been asked if my skin color is a tan. If I had a dollar for every time an esthetician asked me if I’d gone to the solarium, I’d have enough to get a lunch special at a vegan cafe.
Last week, when she saw my legs, my new esthetician asked if I’d recently been to the beach. My sister told me she would have said, “No, I’ve been to DNA.”
A lot of Turkish people are into brown skin. Sometimes strangers in a public bathroom or on the street will smile at me and tell me they think my skin color is beautiful. I like that very much.
Then there are the people who have weird brown-skinned fantasies. A dance manager told me once that she wanted to marry a black man so she could have brown children with curly hair, like me. This same dance manager repeatedly tried to book me for samba and hip-hop gigs. “You’d be perfect!” And when I was reluctant to accept–“but we need someone like you!” Really? You “need” an amateur samba dancer whose experience is limited to the 5 or so times she’s gone out drinking and dancing at Brazilian night?
Once, while filming a music video for Israel’s version of The Bachelor with 29 other dancers, 27 of whom I was meeting for the first time, a girl approached me and asked me earnestly if I could introduce her to a black man. With a good job. Who was looking for a wife. Why? She wanted mixed kids. Again, this was the first time the two of us had ever spoken. “Well,” I replied, “I live in Turkey, so most of my friends here are, you know, Turkish. I see lots of African immigrants working as street vendors, though. Maybe you could approach one of them.” She rejected this idea. She wanted someone who could take care of her. “I can’t carry anyone. He’s got to be able to carry me.” Where are your priorities? How badly do you want mixed kids?
There are many other examples, but this recent one stands out: “You can ask any of my friends,” he said. “Hayalim [my dream] is to marry a black woman. In fact, he compared me to a woman he’d “been in love with” for “a few weeks.” I happened to know the person he was talking about. She’s Morrocan. A beautiful, tall, chiseled-cheeked chocolate drop. We don’t even look like we could be cousins, but according to him, the two of us “look just alike.”
Then, of course, I have met one Turkish person who is a bit racist. An acquaintance of mine, upon my return from Bodrum three summers ago, noticed my tan and offered the following observation and advice. “Wow, you got really dark in Bodrum. Too dark. You should go to a hamam [Turkish bath] and have that scrubbed off.” This was coming from the same woman who’d said, (prefaced with “Don’t get me wrong, but”) “There are so many blacks in Istanbul lately, especially around Şişli.” When I raised my eyebrows, waiting for her to elaborate, she said, “They cause trouble. They steal and sell drugs.” Of the five black people I’ve met here, two have been teachers, one a teacher’s wife, another a singer (my Moroccan “twin”), and the last one is an engineer.
“I don’t know,” I told my friend. “Seems like the majority of the ones I see in Şişli sell watches.” I didn’t bother adding that the only drug dealers I’ve met so far in Istanbul have all been Turkish. Not that I know very many.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. skywalkerstoryteller
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 22:51:48

    Well, now I know why I have seen so many beautiful little mixed babies with white mothers. Of course, often those children have smiled at me in recognition, because my skin and hair is close to theirs. (No, I’m not mixed – but my Dad was very fair skinned). And all of my nieces and nephews are mixed and beautiful – but my sisters didn’t seek out white men to have mixed babies! And really, I always have loved dark skin like yours but have learned to appreciate the skin I walk in now.:) What’s interesting is that often, in places like here, Alaska, with few black people, I’m asked if I’m native American – but even when I lived in DC, I was asked where I came from. I tell my husband I’m a Universal Black Woman.


  2. Leah
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 01:10:44

    Lol at your sister’s comment


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