I’ve never shared this with anyone, but now I’ve decided to because I recognise and highly believe in the healing properties of shared experiences and how they can lead the troubled to help.

At the age of eight when I relocated to Europe with my sister to join our parents, I didn’t know there was, in this human world, a category of people who were defined Black and others White. It simply never occurred to me. Of course, although I was a little child, I knew about people being different from me and my dark skin. What I didn’t know was what I was in the eyes of others. I never thought to be Black until I came to Europe.

It wasn’t just the colour of my skin; what I never knew was the baggage and the notion of blackness that comes along with my skin.

I grew up in a predominantly White neighbourhood and consequently went to school with White friends. We’d share joys and tears and went to each other’s birthday parties. We went to the park behind the elementary school together every afternoon after four to play. We raced with our bikes. 

Racism hit me at the age of ten, in my classroom, within the walls that had held the joys and tears of a happy childhood. At the time, my class was the fourth room on the third floor of the beige building in Via Chopin, the name of the street of my school.

Nothing was given being a Black person growing up in Italy; life was already tough because of the dichotomy of this identity, add to that living with racism.

As a Black child I was never educated on systems of White-ness or Black-ness. My parents never thought of schooling me. Every time I came home from school reporting incidents and racist remarks I had received, I was told to give them a taste of their own medicine; which medicine?

At fourteen years I thought of committing suicide because life as I had known it had no meaning. I was being mocked for my blackness and dismissed when I tried to share my struggle. I was torn in and out of places, feeling empty, and emptied by those who I cared for.

At fourteen, life didn’t take flight for me, and when it did, it resulted in an immediate crash. I cried a lot at night and I stopped going to the park. I was often alone in the house and the blue knives that my mum used to cook were in the second draw of the kitchen set, near our Whirlpool fridge.

I often thought about it, and would sometimes imagine where the cut would be more effective and less painful. I imagined my funeral several times and thought about my Aunt Maggie in Ghana, who would have been so torn because she couldn’t have been here in Europe, but she would have always kept me in her heart and a picture of me in front of her mirror.

At fourteen, I thought of denying myself life because it was a gift made tourture by racism.

Racism came also from Black classmates, and that was painful, plus one. They mocked my name and who I was. That day I cried in class and then outside for two or three hours. That day I realised I was alone: No parents, no sisters nor brothers had compassion.

I found hope in the poems I wrote and the books I read. I knew my life was bigger than me, with a purpose that was bigger than that present time. I vowed to be my own light and not to rely on the compassion of others. I chose passion to fight this, and life was revealed again.

Benjamina Dadzie
Benjamina is a Ghanaian born Italian, currently living in Manchester, England. She’s the editor of The African-Italian Project, an online blog through which she shares her story.
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9 Comments on "Racism Hit Me at the Age of Ten"

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Emmanuella Ntim
Hello Benjamina, well as a Ghanian with Ghanaian parents I can say that I relate with you, oh yes I do paa. I remember at the age of 5 in kindergarten crying because I wasn’t given the role of a princess because, you know Disney princesses are white. My mom told me that I shouldn’t mind them but I should do my best to prove them am more than just a colour. I didn’t understand her but I now realize that it’s true. Even here in Germany I feel those eyes on me but you know what, I’ve learnt how… Read more »

Thanks for sharing what was clearly a difficult time, the struggle you describe feels very familiar. As an adult I learnt that my parents denials of my struggles with race and identity in a predominantly white space was out of guilt they had for putting me in that environment and needing to be blind to my pain to validate their very difficult decision to immigrate in the first place. It doesn’t make it easier at the time (especially as a teenage girl) but it gives me clarity as an adult.

Yvette T.
I like this. The thoughts of suicide so akin to those I had. Eliminating methods of death based on how quickly they would take effect and the side effects were it to fail. On a more positive note, I, too, took to writting, and drawing and reading. I found powerful, versions of myself in the graphite that stuck to paper in the shape of letters and words and stanzas of the feelings and thoughts that were large jagged rocks perforating my heart, imagined myself the beloved protagonist of fictional biographies I drew and lost myself in the simpler complications of… Read more »
Deana Bolumbu

Benjamina – Sorry you had to deal with those intense experiences and emotions so young. I feel you girl. Been there before. What I realized similar to what you shared was that there was a force – greater than I could imagine that kept compelled the event not to happen and for that we know there’s a greater purpose. Thanks for sharing.

Nung Mabelle

Depression after moving to a new country is not rare in my opinion. Having parents who haven’t had to deal with it at the same level or capacity doesn’t help either. It’s that sense of isolation that makes it much harder. What’s sad is that usually you are not the only one going through that situation but due to physical barriers or just personal distance, you are unable to connect with others facing the same issues, you are unable to find that community you want or need.

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