This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.
It was our mistake, really. I mean, what the heck were we thinking opening up to white women, sharing our lived experiences all willy-nilly in a mixed-race Facebook space? Making ourselves all vulnerable and shit. Nope, we shoulda done kept all that mess to ourselves.
Act I: In which I bring up race
It all started when I posted about how my corner of Istanbul’s expat community was starting to feel like a bubble of privilege and, well, whiteness. Almost everyone I interacted with on a regular basis was North American and white. And I just didn’t feel like I could talk to them about how vendors yelled “Michelle Obama” or “Venus Williams” at me to get my attention at the Spice Bazaar, or about that time I’m pretty sure a taxi driver tried to surreptitiously take a picture of me on his smartphone. He did not seem suspicious of me; I think he wanted to document that he had a real live black woman in his taxi.
Despite a population of over 15 million, the city of Istanbul is pretty racially homogenous. People of African or Asian descent make up a small minority of inhabitants, so we definitely stand out. The expat community here is larger and more diverse in terms of nationalities than any other I’ve been a part of, with women from Dubai, Egypt, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S. all represented within my social circle. But expats everywhere tend to be white and affluent, and those in my adopted city are no exception.
Nearly all of us belong to various Facebook groups that help us connect with people from our home countries, share resources, and navigate local life. The largest group for foreign women was a steady resource for me in my four years in Istanbul. I turned to it with questions about everything from where to buy a raincoat that would withstand Istanbul’s wet winters, to last-minute translations that would enable me…