When I was 15 years old, my friend and I were riding around on our bikes in New Jersey. I was born in New York City, but my parents decided that my sister and I were better off growing up in the suburbs. We lived in a predominantly white neighborhood. While riding our bikes, my friend asked me if we could swing by another girl’s house, so she could join us. I didn’t know her, but I said, yes.
When we arrived, my friend walked into the house first. When I entered, the other girl’s father opened his eyes wide.
»What’s that n***** doing in my house?!«, he said.
I froze up. My senses went numb for a second. That was the first time in my life I was standing across from another human being who said something racist directly to my face. I got scared, turned around, and started running out of the house. He didn’t yell the words, but they were clearly intended for me. Outside, my friend and the other girl were at a loss for words. Most 15-year-olds would feel the same in the situation.
I watched the 8-minute, 46-second long video with George Floyd.
As a black American, it’s almost unbearable to watch. I’ve felt powerless and quite disconnected from the events back home. I was sitting here in quiet Farum with summer fast approaching, while on Instagram, I could see my friends protesting alongside thousands of other people. There were fires in the street of my home state. My country seemed to be falling apart. That frustrated me no end. I had to do something to make my voice heard.
I’ve been sitting in my room in Farum wondering why we are seeing this wave of protests around the world at the moment. Racism and police violence have always been part of American history. Typically, these things come and go, spark some debate for a while, but then tend to fade away. This time it’s different. The world is listening now.
The answers I would give to that question would be that racism is being caught on camera more often now than earlier. Everyone could see that the actions of the officers in Minneapolis were wrong.
After the killing of George Floyd, the two girls from the incident when I was 15 years old got in touch with me. They told me that they were sorry they hadn’t said anything. They didn’t know how to handle the situation. They knew better now, and they just wanted to tell me that what happened was wrong. That was such a relief to hear even though it happened more than ten years ago.
Now that racism has reared its ugly head once more, I, like many others, have started to think back on incidents where I have been treated differently just because of the color of my skin. It’s tough being forced to think back and call to mind the people who hurt you.
I first encountered racism in youth soccer clubs. To this day, I’ve only ever had a few black teammates throughout my career. In several instances, I wasn’t invited to sleepovers with my teammates. I just figured they didn’t like my personality. When my parents talked to me about racism, I didn’t quite get it. I was just a child. ’My teammates, their parents, and people in my social circle would never treat me badly because of my skin color,’ I thought.
Now I see things more clearly. I was the only one who wouldn’t be invited.
Compared to many other black Americans, I had an easy upbringing in a good neighborhood. When even someone like me has encountered racism, I’m hoping people might realize how widespread racism is and used to be.
My family and hometown mean a lot to me. There was only a 35-minute drive from my college, Rutgers University, to my home. After four years, I was drafted by Kansas City in 2016 and played in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League). But my main competitor in the role of central defender was a regular for the national team, which meant I didn’t get a lot of time on the field.
I’m a homebody so it’s kind of crazy that I’m living in Denmark right now after spending a few years in Sweden. Before going there, I had never been to Europa. That was a big step for me because I travelled on my own, only 22 years old. This might make them sound like stereotypical stupid Americans, but my friends didn’t know the difference between Switzerland and Sweden. They thought it was the same country, so they asked me to bring back some good Swiss chocolate. I told them that Swedes mainly eat meatballs.
I had resolved to return to New Jersey in 2019 after my time in Sweden. But FC Nordsjælland made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ve lived in the hotel right behind the stadium in Farum for a year and a half now. I’m really looking forward to moving to Vesterbro this summer. I consider Denmark my second home now.
I understand Danish when my teammates write in our Facebook group, but I don’t claim to be an expert on Danish culture just yet. The idea of kneeling had been floating around in the back of my mind for a few days after George Floyd’s death. But I wasn’t sure what would happen if I decided to go through with it. Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played a single game in the NFL after he kneeled back in 2016, and no team wanted to sign him after that. I didn’t know if the reaction in Denmark would be just as severe, and I didn’t have millions in my bank account like he did.
One day I was small talking to some of people at the top in FC Nordsjælland about everything going on in America. One of them told me that the men’s team were considering taking a knee before a game against FC Midtjylland – which they ended up doing. That gave me the stamp of approval and convinced me it wouldn’t be a problem if I decided to kneel.