Profiling: pulling the race card
I'm reading Biko's writings in "I write what I like", sitting facing Karacay river, in a context where I'm the only black person. Dealing with my insecurities and thoughts and feelings....trying to figure out what part of this is fueled by fear and an inferiority complex and what part of it is simply the excitement and nerves of traveling alone in a foreign land. Getting comfortable with being solitary so as to appreciate being alone without using anyone or anything as a means of escape. Anyway, on being the only black person in most places while traveling in Turkey: I am more aware of my blackness and what judgements people lay on me because of it. I realize that this very quickly makes me the token black and a "representation" of black people everywhere in the eyes of the ignorant and arrogant (which is a lot of eyes). Back at home I'm confronted with different struggles; I have my people who I engage with on different struggles and those who I deem irrelevant and don't waste my energy on. But when you are depending on others for literally your survival; what you eat, where you sleep and how you navigate your day, the situation is completely different. It's not as easy to be dismissive to the questioning suspecting gaze that follows you around, funny enough this gaze often comes from westerners and other tourists and not the people of the land. You start to feel the real limitations of your skin colour. The fact that my blackness should not only limit my freedom of movement but also influence my experience while traveling is perplexing and not to mention ridiculous.
Living in South Africa I get racially profiled everyday, but not overtly. So yes, people look at me and have all sorts of ideas about who I am and what I'm about before I breathe out a word.
This however, is the first time where that profiling has been so personal, direct, unavoidable and alienating. Upon disembarking my plane in Istanbul, I passed through some officials ( before you even make it out to passport control, like literally as you leave the plane). I hand over my passport and the "official" quickly scans it and asks: " Moloi, why are you here, what are you doing in Istanbul?"....."uhm, tourism?". "Wait here" he says as he keeps my passport in the back pocket of his jeans and proceeds to check the rest of the passenger's passports. I see that there's two of us on the "wait here" list and I immediately think "uh, in their minds, we could be refugees". Mr "wait here" comes back to us once he's done & asks us the usual mundane crap, where are you staying, show me proof, what job do you have back home....I reply but have to hold off from vomiting in my mouth.....the joys of traveling while black.
Questioning & formal passport control later I go down to baggage claim to reclaim my bag. Half an hour later I'm still waiting. I see that there's me and two other guys still waiting for our bags....yep you guessed it. Me, the same black guy ( who I later found out is from Lagos connecting via Dubai) & a third guy ( also from lagos connecting via Dubai) waiting for our bags while the rest of the passengers from the plane are long gone. We then have to wait close to another 2 hours because apparently our bags our "downstairs & coming in 10 minutes" the airline hostess has a list with our bag numbers in her hand to confirm it....
A few minutes later we go back to the tiny lost & found office to clarify, maybe we misunderstood, it's been way longer than 10 minutes but our bags are still nowhere to be seen. Nope, we didn't misunderstand, our bags are downstairs with security & will be up shortly.
Now, I'm pretty sure the first incident was profiling because we could be fleeing from a war-zone to hide out in Turkey, we are black after-all.....as for the second incident I still can't say. I mean I know that bags get lost & recovered all the time, it's a necessary concomitant of the airline business. I just find it very suspect that the three bags by the only blacks in the entire plane of multiple connections from all over the world just all happened to be "held up downstairs with security". Maybe it has to do with the location from which your bag is coming from & the name printed on that bag....or maybe its just a pure coincidence....or maybe the white god really has it out for us black folk, creating us black and then punishing us for it.