Disclaimer: Mommy, don’t read this →
I had anticipated…nothing.
A trip to Kızılay,Ankara was as mundane to me as brushing my teeth. And to be honest, this trip for business was in most cases than not, quite ordinary.
Happy to end my excursion in Kızılay and head home, I was grateful to find a taxi cab waiting at the side of the road not too far from where I had just conducted some business. Beckoning to the taxi driver, he rolled down the window on the passenger side as I shouted my intended destination. A quick nod of his head sealed the deal.
I jumped in.
Being black of course, the conversation in taxi cabs follows the investigatory checklist of who, what, when, where and how of life.
He tried to ask as best as he could and so did I, try my best to answer; our knowledge of each other’s language quite limited.
Putting that aside, I thought this was going to be an easy and friendly ride.
Three hours later, I lay in bed. In my apartment. No lights on…crying.
In the 20 minutes that it took from Kızılay to the bus station, the taxi driver had become so enamoured with my skin and hair as with the strongly held stereotypical correlation between these two physical features and hyper sexuality, that he ….
I cannot finish the sentence. I am sorry.
After a minute of casual conversation punctuated with several pauses for clarity, he learned of the area in which I lived. He insisted that he would take me straight there despite my request for the bus station… tomorrow.
Laughter typical of a “you are so funny” was my reply to which he grabbed my hand and pinned it with his to the gearbox of his manual car as he changed gears.
Tugging to free my hand, he kept on speaking of my ‘beauty’ and saying “Yarin, home (tomorrow I will take you home)”.
Screaming at him to stop, reality was as oblivious to him as it was slowly dawning on me.
He had no intentions of driving me to my requested destination.
So many times we watch these situations on television believing that we would be wiser and quicker than the person we are watching. But it is only until that moment in time comes, do you know.
Arkadas! Otogar! (Friends! Station!)
I screamed at him as I reached into my bag for my cell phone to call someone… anyone.
Those words and actions eased his grip on my hand, releasing it. However it would free his hand to pull my hair, my clothes and my….
Screaming at him to stop, I noticed the bus station on my right was being passed as we sped on the highway.
I don’t know why.
I. honestly. dont. know. why.
Swiftly shifting to the embankment of the highway, he showed no signs of worry or anxiety that would indicate some measure of guilt. Just a ‘great, we can be alone together for a few minutes more” look on his face.
Both of his hands now free as the car was stationery, he pulled on my coat and scarf, trying to reveal my bra as I fumbled with car door to escape.
A short man in stature, he was still able to stretch himself over to my side of the car to take a look at my bosom as he pulled down on my clothes.
Exclaiming with satisfaction at the sight, he still seemed completely unawares of what he was doing. Almost as if what he was doing was normal, necessary and… okay by me and by any Middle Eastern man, lest he be judged.
This would never had happened if I were white or arab because then it would be safe to assume that even without wearing a hijab, I would be muslim and if not, still one of theirs. As a result, I would be treated with the most respect and civility.
I paid the fare throwing the crisp bill back into the car as I slammed the door. Why?
I assumed as is the case in most metropolitan countries, it is illegal to ‘dine and dash’ with taxis.
I was forced to walk my way into the bus station from the highway.
As the cool autumn wind washed my face, I was completely thoughtless. Just angry.
Since coming to the middle east, I had heard so many stories of the perception of black women as exotic, sexually mysterious and elusive, yet wanting to be ‘known’ by men.
A view that seems to be strongly held and believed by the older generation of men even though you do find evidence of it in younger men.This taxi driver was well into retirement age. And like most men his age and of his ilk, married.
It was my skin colour and hair that gave him, the ultimate opportunity, permission and assurance to whet his sexual appetite, one which he was not about to pass up.
I and countless ‘others’ have written about the middle easterner’s treatment of blacks, particularly the perception of blacks as ‘easy’ ‘always ready’ forbidden fruit. Of course this perception is lessened if you were muslim and wear the hijab.
Not for the first time in my life, well since coming to the middle east, did I consider wearing a hijab to prove that their was no sexual energy in me wanting to be harnessed or explored.
Having locs, I was used to wearing scarfs as turbans and in the cool weather, turtle necks with long sleeves. Such a look could and would pass for a muslim girl as I sometimes already have been taken for.
But why should I have to assume the look of a ‘religious, islamic’ woman in order to ensure that men looked beyond the colour of my skin and its pejorative stereotype?
As I lay on my bed still flushed with anger, I called a friend and told him about what had happened. In the time since I had gotten home, I had resigned myself to report the bastard to the authorities the next day and had disclosed this intention to my friend.
“Don’t you dare. You are black and you are foreign. You are wasting your time.”
Petra: In the Middle East blog was created with the intention of debunking many biased and negative notions of the Middle East as portrayed in and by Western media. The stereotype of the sexualised black woman is common in Western media as a reflection of the West’s own objectification of black women. As a result, daily experiences that support this agenda are sacrosanct in the West. Even though this is the sad truth in the West, the Middle East is seldom portrayed by Western media as having such a problem and more importantly as a conservative, religious and Islamic center,is also seldom portrayed as a place where sexuality and the expression of it is overt or abused. In as much as I am dedicated to demystifying this region, so that a palatable and true representation is offered to Westerners, I am also committed to functioning within the journalistic parameters of integrity and objectivity. As a result, this post is no way an attempt to paint all Middle Eastern men with one brush as it relates to the stereotypical view of black women and the treatment of, but, rather to share a story that has become way too familiar for me in the short time that I have been here. In so doing, and in sharing the trauma, which has been intentionally nuanced in this post in an effort to shield my family from any discomfort, I hope that any Middle Eastern person reading this post will also feel compelled to join me in the agenda of debunking stereotypes so that black women living in this region can be seen as one of your own: sisters, daughters, mothers or friends. Inşallah.
Originally published at www.petrainthemiddleeast.com.