“The Black Man (A True Story)”
by Paulo Coelho
by Paulo Coelho
"We are at the restaurant of a German University. A red haired student, and undeniably German, takes her tray and sits down at her table. She then realizes she has forgotten her cutlery and gets up again to pick it up. Coming back, she sees with astonishment that a black man, possibly sub-Saharan by his appearance, is sitting there and is eating from her tray. Straight away, the young woman feels lost and stressed, but immediately changes her thought and presumes that the African is not familiar with European customs concerning private property and privacy. She also takes into consideration that perhaps he does not have enough money to pay for his meal.
In any case, she decides to sit in front of the guy and to smile at him in a friendly manner. The African responds with another dazzling smile. The German girl starts to help herself, sharing the food with the black man with genuine pleasure and courtesy. And thus, he took the salad, she ate the soup, both took their share of the stew, one took care of the yoghurt and the other of the piece of fruit, all this peppered with numerous refined smiles – timid from the man and smoothly, encouraging and kind by the girl. They eat up their lunch. The German girl gets up to get a coffee. And it is then that she discovers, on the table behind the black man, her coat placed on the back of a chair and her food tray untouched.
I dedicated this charming story– furthermore an authentic one– to all who are wary of immigrants and consider them as inferior individuals, to all these people, who with the best of intentions, observe them condescendingly and with paternalism. It would be better that we free ourselves of prejudices or we run the risk to make a fool of ourselves like the poor German who thought to be at the height of civilization whilst the African greatly educated, let her eat and share her meal and at the same time was thinking, “How mad these Europeans are.”