What Are Racial Politics Like in Lisbon?
This section was written with the help of Alex, a gay/polysexual cisgender black man who advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights through his work as a musician and also as an activist in a GAT's community-based center.
“Lisbon tends to be a very safe city, especially in touristic areas, but it’s all around pretty diverse,” says Alex D’Alva Teixeira, musician. “The term microaggressions is good, but here in Lisbon it is mostly nano-aggressions. Racial attacks don’t happen often, but if you move away from the centre, the probability of witnessing racism will increase. The chance of watching anything dramatic is almost nonexistent, especially if you’re a tourist, because they’re worshipped in Lisbon.”
“In the same regard, you might be subject to racial experiences, but mostly from people being completely unaware and clueless. You can be graceful and explain why something is wrong. If you tip waiters and are nice to people, Portuguese hospitality will make you feel welcome regardless of race.”
“You should avoid the places where right-wing groups hang out, like certain areas of Bairro Alto after nightfall, but mostly football games, especially ultras. Lisbon is a great place for people of colour and racialised people. Nowadays Brazilians are the crowd that receives most attacks and examples of xenophobia.”
To ensure your safety, do the same thing you would do in any other European city. This city feels really, really special, but I’m talking from a male perspective and that has to be underlined.”
Talking to Alex, I got the idea that the city is friendly, but the scars from centuries of colonialism and white privilege are still very present in Portuguese society. Though there has been a lively debate in the Portuguese media as of recent, particularly after the Black Lives Matter protests, and a heightened awareness of the country’s role in slave trade, rest assured that locals are unlikely to engage tourists in that dialogue and ask their opinion on the matter.