I was walking down Tbilisi’s main drag, Rustaveli Blvd, with Andre, a young football (soccer) player from Cameroon when a man walked up to him and said in scattered English, “excuse me, but you…” He motioned as to help pick some lint from Andre’s hair, but instead started fondling his nappy head.
“Thank you,” Andre said.
It’s not easy being a black person in Georgia.
Georgia prides itself in being a tolerant and culturally diverse nation, which it is if you are a white, straight, Orthodox Christian Georgian. But because blacks are not traditional resident guests and have only recently appeared, they attract predictable rounds of Caucasian nescience. However, as annoying as it is to have fingers pointed at you and people snickering behind your back, blacks in Georgia don’t have to worry about racist maniacs jumping out of the dark with lead pipes. There are no skinheads in Georgia because Georgians are too preoccupied with their greatness to have room for the concept of white supremacy. They are above it.
“The Georgian men, they always want me to smoke and drink with them. But I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. And they still invite me. I can’t stand it,” explains a young Cameroonian named Mirako, of how Georgian aggression manifests itself in hospitality overkill.
Everybody wants their pictures taken with a black person, while sex, goes without saying. It’s like a twist on how curiosity killed the cat. What it all boils down to is that blacks are a novelty in a land inhabited by a bunch of big white kids.
My neighbor, Sylvester, is from Nigeria. I thought it would be interesting to do a profile on him to try to understand the difficulties Africans face in the land of hospitality. What I discovered is that there are perhaps hundreds of Africans that have been victimized by various scams that attract them to Georgia to bilk and then abandon them when their money runs out. Broke, unable to speak a local language in a country with an unofficial unemployment rate of 70% (official about %15), these people find themselves stuck in Georgia.
I did a story for Eurasianet about a team of Cameroonian footballers with Justyna Mielnikiewicz and a couple of stories for Deutsche Welle (1st and 2nd).