The Blackwoman Who: Stories of race and culture in Denmark


A Black woman was passing in the Danish crowd at the Christmas season. The windows of the shops were already in the spirit with huge red hearts and candle-white bulbs strung like popcorn above and across with the tradition. Folks bustled by in knit caps and furry tams, in blue jeans and fashionable leather slacks. Boots and gym trainers, layered jackets and bundled fur hoods caressing their, by and large, windswept, cherry-red faces. A Blackman–as far as the Blackwoman was concerned–crossed her path awkwardly. She saw that he was losing his balance because one of his shoe strings was loose. He was having neither success at bending nor grasping them. And the asphalt beneath his splayed legs did not help his balance because a slippery frost coated the soles of his brown workman’s boots.

The Blackwoman watched him from only a body’s distance away. She saw now that in addition to badly managing a wide-legged straddle, nearly tripping while sliding into  about on the icy ground, he was drunk. The Black woman took a step back, looked at him compassionately. She knew this reality, God rest her father’s soul.  Perhaps this evoked her compassion; it could have been amusement. It may be it was pity. Taking a step back…could have been caution. That is the confusion with being a Blackwoman who sees, trying to name what is seen in truth. Well, a touchable truth that can be shared– as  a now.

The Blackwoman, suddenly possessed, felt strong and sure. Where such possession comes from, she has never been able to say. She is after all,only a Black woman, with eyes to see . She watches. This is the watch report. She watches from her own watchtower. She stands guard when she isn’t standing guard. “Brother,” she said, “let me help you.” “Sister,” he said, his right leg sliding away, close to graceless split. “I can do it.”  And again he made a hapless, ineffectual lunge for the loose strings of the shoe on his left foot. He floundered.

The Blackwoman took charge. “Brtother, come over here. Here. Let me help you. ” She intended to direct the traffic of his floundering. She took his left hand and arm, quite without permission. “Here now, put your hand against this wall to balance. There you go. There.”

She got him propped up against the building with just a little tug of his wool coat sleeve. This stopped him from those fruitless attempts to bend down to tie his shoe without falling over. Then she knelt, found the wayward shoe strings that were preventing his own success. One end of the lace had escaped the little eye which otherwise would equalize the string length. She threaded the shoelace. She crossed and double-bow tied it.

“There.” she said again. “Sister, you did that for me!” said he. (His accent making him African). “Yes,I did.” said she. “But why?” said he. “Because you deserved it.” He looked dumbstruck. He reached for her, to give a hug of gratitude. She allowed it, hoping not to be trapped by their strangers’ embrace. She trusted. After all, she initiated the intervention. Then, without struggle or awkwardness, without looking into each other’s eyes, they let go. She went on her way, not looking back, a Blackwoman (leaving a Blackman to his path) both melting like first snowflakes in the Norreport crowd during the Christmas season in Copenhagen.

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