The Juxtaposition of Being in Germany Right Now


The Juxtaposition of Being in Germany Right Now

The 1st of February fell on a Monday. It was the perfect beginning to a new month in a new year. It was also the start of American Week here in Germany and Black History Month in America. One could say the latter should be a global concept but I don't think so. To be "Black" is an American thing and typically Black Americans and their accolades and traditions are what America celebrates during the shortest month of the year.  In direct juxtaposition is the limited weeks where Germany decides it is time to market and sell all things America. They typically do this is response to something exciting happening "over there" like a national holiday or a big American event. Next week is the Super Bowl so now is the time to stock up on typical American things. Sadly, most of the crap they push out to the German market are things never even thought of in the U.S. - a lot of it should go directly to the bin. I like to say it is all inspired by America as the majority of the products must be imagined by people who have never been to the States before and it really shows. They also do not get that lining your shelves with purposeful slang in graffiti writing and stock images all of Black football players isn't okay with us. Us being the Black Americans that just so happen to be here during Black History Month. 

Now surely I do partake in buying American week shit because when in Rome. I do have heimweh and some things not all appeal to me in that respect. Pop Tarts, Reeces Peanut Butter Cups and Mini Rainbow Marshmallows allow me to taste back home while at a decent price for imported goods. What doesn't sit right with me is "Louisiana" noodles and "Wings for Kings". I have also cringed for months now at a commercial where a Black guy playing an American football player runs through a diner and pummels everyone to get his hands on a frozen pizza deemed to cure a bigger American appetite. The box for said pizza is covered in New York City scapes and the motto "We Love". Other products are clearly marked as spicy, southern, XXL, jumbo and or BBQ. Because this is what Germans believe Americans go for. The marketing is also purposely, yet subtlety racist as there are never any white fake football players or a lot of white people gathered around platters of fried chicken, jelly beans and brownies. I try to ignore this to get whatever I want and trust me the demand is low. No one actually likes this stuff. So I always appear to be the obese, desperate and dumb American buying all of it. When in reality all I want is decently priced Pop Tarts to carefully ration until next time. I do not want cheese noodles and I am not a fan of frozen baby back ribs. We do eat salads. We do like our vegetables. 

When I leave behind the plethora of weird items for unsuspecting souls I imagine they only buy them to make fun of people like me. I did notice I was the only Black person out shopping these displays of junk food and experimental products. I also noticed the peculiar faces of Germans wondering how I could be so gullible. After multiple years of partaking I actually noticed the way the marketing was set up to be "urban" and insulting. There is a strong likelihood Germans only buy the stuff to dabble in what they believe to be our culture. I mean they do this for so many other things with reckless abandon so it is plausible. I know someone is making a YouTube video right now trying to speak Ebonics and chewing on beef jerky and peanut butter flips imagining this is what Americans particularly Black Americans do. It would be different if the marketing showed real football players being sponsored or they actually got the flavors of such things right. My husband bought the Aldi Dunkin Donuts which should have been a real win considering no one wants to go to a German franchise where they actually sell waldmeister iced donuts. Well someone decided to surprise me with strawberry filling in the traditional strawberry sprinkled ones and I nearly choked. This is not how they are made in America. We do not eat bagels covered in pizza sauce with hamburger crumbles. We are not drinking blueberry juice. We do not eat onion rings with red pepper sauce or chili with corn in it on top of fries. And no one Black or white is gathered around the TV on Super Bowl Sunday eating jellybeans. This must be a parody of us.

To celebrate Black History Month from abroad I have to look past these images. Instead, I look to the articles, campaigns and concepts coming out of America. Sadly, a lot of that is also misplaced humor and overtly racist. It was even more triggering yesterday when I noticed white "allies" create all this supposedly Black centric content. Most of this stuff was made months in advance to take stock in a month that isn't even about them. It was is all this unity magically appearing in one day on day one. Like formerly white, intellectual spaces became inclusive but only for a limited time. So much was tone deaf and deemed as comedy which wasn't celebratory or honorable. I couldn't care less that certain spokespeople or brands are tapping into Black culture for only twenty eight days. So many simply missed the mark. Where does one turn for actual representation, respect and recognition when abroad? It used to be expat groups which now choose to highlight African expats during Black History Month. Now I may be apart of the same race but not the same mindset. I see the beauty in that choice but I don't see how it is apart of the Black American experience of doing great despite it all. That is what Black History Month is about. It is about 400 years of slavery and still being poets, singers, athletes and Presidents. If you built an e-commerce business in Ghana that too is great but know you did it because you can. Why am I celebrating something done without any adversity or expectation of failure because of systemic and institutional racism? That is bullshit. 

We as Black Americans have to find other things to feel present and collaborative without accepting these half assed examples. We are able to look at these efforts and discern way more than others who just accept everything because they assume it is Black or pertaining to Black Americans. The NFL has a long standing hatred for Black people. Other sport leagues and agencies also operate the same. The players that play for them only do so for a huge check and are under contract. These relationships can be interpreted as an exchange with ulterior motives. Surely a lot of Black Americans watch the Super Bowl over wings all flats but there are so many others that have decided to not partake for this very reason. This month is the time for us to disconnect and not support a climate of pandering for a month only to return to oppressive and predijuced ways in March through January. Instead of supporting these models and examples I personally find authentic Blackness through other channels. For me that is speaking with other like minded Black Americans as much as possible. That is highlighting the people and practices I myself embrace. That is cooking and eating as much Black centric food as possible. That is also taking a day off and eating an overpriced, strawberry Pop Tart to unplug, deprogram and unwind from the fuckery that is being Black in general especially when far from home in Germany. 

P.S. We bought 80 Pop Tarts.