I was reminiscing on Kanye West's lyrics as I approached my cousin's apartment on Avenue Mountain in Paris. The prestigious neighborhood not only includes high-end designer stores such as Dior, Valentino, Louis Vuitton and much more, but is also walking distance from both Les champ Elysée, and the Eiffel tour. However, as I step out of my Uber I felt unease. It's funny how certain places can emit a certain energy that can make you feel uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable as in I don't belong here but uncomfortable as in I know I am not wanted here.
Nonetheless, I stepped out of the Uber with my two suitcases in hand. It wasn't my first time in Paris, but it was my first time staying over at this location with my cousin. It was 12:30 am, the Uber left and my phone still with my American sim card could only work via wifi. The building number where the Uber dropped me off did not correspond with the building number that my cousin had sent me, it wasn't too far off, however, but I knew I would have to do a little searching before finding my location. I moved up and down the street looking for my cousin's apartment building. Getting a bit anxious and nervous, a few people watched me looking obviously lost, but no one said anything.
Finally, after having dragged my suitcases for about 20 minutes up and down Avenue mountain, I decided that it would be wise to ask someone for help. A man was walking towards my direction and I thought here was my opportunity. As he approached me I politely said "excuse me, sir", but to my surprise, he kept walking and avoided eye contact. I repeated a lot louder this time " Excuse me, sir!". But he continued, pretending not to have heard me.
I was shocked and speechless because unless he was blind and death this man had blatantly ignored me. After another few minutes of walking up and down the street, I finally found the building number and met up with my cousin. We talked for a few minutes to catch up, then, I told him what had happened to me. He didn't seem half as shock or surprise as I was. In fact, he added that he feels the same way when he is here, that the people in the building that he lives in have a hard time conceptualizing that this young black man can actually live here, he would move if he could but he's location is so convenient for his school that it saves him money and time if he stays.
Now here I am thinking of Kanye West lyrics again, because they cannot be far from the truth, in the perceptions of some people it does not matter what your packets hold, what you do and how you do it you will forever be a nigger in their eyes. In my opinion, this is a complex that many people of color also have, whether we know it or not, some of us are constantly trying to prove ourselves to the very people whose minds are so rigid that they cannot possibly see beyond the color of our skin.
More than Kanye West's lyrics James Baldwin said it best, " I am not a negro, I am a man, but you needed a negro in your vocabulary, therefore, you invented the word; what white people must do is ask themselves why they needed that word in the first". I would also add, what we need to do as a people is understand that we are made perfectly in our imperfection and need not to prove to anyone for any reason who we are.