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As I passed shopkeepers setting out signs and sweeping storefronts that morning, I noticed a short middle-aged white woman with a pixie cut walking a couple feet in front of me with her purse on her shoulder. She looked at me and screamed then pressed her back against the wall.I looked around in alarm, thinking something had happened, but couldn’t figure out what.After my semester in Italy, I realized what she meant.
When we were getting up to leave, he approached our group — and he did not seem drunk.
But I was so caught up in my excitement that I neglected a crucial difference between me, my roommates and the majority of the other students I was studying with abroad. I, on the other hand, am an African-American woman with skin the color of dark chocolate and full lips.
In the United States, I was aware of racism in a broad sense, but perhaps because of my age my eyes weren’t fully open to it.
As my group walked away, one of the women made an observation I’ll never forget. He just called you ‘disgusting black women.’”When I returned to the apartment where I was staying with a fair-skinned Italian woman and her biracial teenage daughter named Ami, I told her, with great emotion, what had happened.
She shrugged and said in a mixture of Italian and English, “It happens to Ami,” whose father is black. Several weeks later, as the weather cooled enough for me to wear one of my favorite oversized sweaters and a beanie hat, I was walking along a street lined with cafes and shops in Florence, making my way down one of those impossibly narrow sidewalks, head bent over my phone.