In fashion you take risks, risks and bets that pay off if you allow them.
In Milan I went to Fashion week to learn, see the extent of my limits, to look after myself and be able to show industry people that I am invested in fashion as an institution.
Stranded in Milan on Fashion week is about race, privilege and the ability to overcome the situation you have been placed in. It is to display to white people their privilege and how unwittingly they can provoke and use it against their white counterparts and black people to know who to trust including themselves.
On Friday first day of Milan Fashion week it was my belief I would be all alone, having seen my white counterparts had no inclination to help me or include me in their plans.
At the British airport I saw an influencer I knew on the way, elated I started conversing and building what I thought was a bond. This influencer previously told me that they dated black men, Nigerian men in particular so they understood that black men can face challenges in the world. This information made me feel comfortable to talk to this influencer as I was. My fears being in a foreign country and the help I may need getting to my destination. This person proceeded to tell me to get the first train they would get the next one. I told them I didn’t understand. We stood at the station with the train front of us and he said this is your train get on it, I said nah I don’t want to. As I don’t know where I’m going, they told me to figure it out. I said to them don’t worry I get the hint imma leave.
Seemingly a harmless comment the perceivable white person, made a decision they had me navigate a foreign country on my own, having told me it was racist already and what they did to black people, so the ‘figure it out was the icing on a privilege cake. For those who don’t understand, simply a black man asking for help is delivered with hesitation, a white man asking for help has an inclination to do so.
Within the parameters of this relationship that “harmless” figure it out could be a death sentence to a black man in a foreign country, known for lack of love loss to black/African people. When you say that you put the man in a predicament, he will undoubtedly have to figure it out but the feeling of being thrown to the wolves is going to be there. For a man who grew up in a certain inner city environment, all, threats have to be assessed on their own merit, knowing they are not a native speaker High alert is even higher and more meaningful.
The story was later recounted to a fellow black man in Italy and it was met with sorrow anguish and empathy. Because they know the feeling and know what the black man would be feeling in that moment. Not just rejection, also inequality, privilege, and relegation to a person who must live this life without familial regard.
If that white person knows nothing it can possibly be spoke about at the time of the figure it out. Though this was a white person who dates african/Nigerian men so there is a known imbalance in the way they think about the things they say.
You do have to deal with the rejection and everything that comes with it. What also happened was the lack of signal to find where you actually are as you would be in a Rural/ urban environment.
What I had to do was leave the train I hopped on look at the signage and figure out I had to wait an hour for the next one to pick me up. With several urbanites watching me. All white men who spoke Italian, my image was the moment they know I don’t speak Italian it’s done for, truth or not it’s the image you get in your mind. I had to think about whether I could get out of a physical altercation unscathed. Being in that mind state is nothing to joke about. The ptsd held from coming from an inner city environment is real. That’s what it has to be. Nothing can be done about it.
I am left to my own mental devices at that point. What can be learned from this though, as a white person who knows an ethnic person is taking the plunge to foreign territory think to yourself what could possibly going through their head at the time of the decision being made, what their family would think about it. And what they could possibly perceive as negative scenarios occurring in that foreign territory. Knowing full well how their adopted territory treats them. This may trigger some empathy on your part to help this person rather to relegate them as competitors in some social hierarchical industry structure that you are playing.
The quality of treatment of black people isn’t just water cooler talk, this is a real life real consequential environment you are places in. It’s not just work to some of us, this is the work of survival. Unending and unyielding survival.
As for the rest of it for people who don’t hold an ounce of sympathy, it’s known that no one is coming to save you and you must make your best efforts to save yourself at all costs
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