I was minding my own business in the candy aisle at the Sam’s Club in Mobile, AL. when I had a brief encounter with a little old white lady who probably by now wishes she had just kept her mouth shut. While admiring a giant container of Mikes without the Ikes, the lady – whom I already noticed staring from a distance – stands next to me. I can tell she’s looking at me, more specifically, my hair. Not only did I have dreads, it was styled rather funky-like in a mohawk. Maybe that’s why she felt inclined to say something.
After looking at my hair from all angles, the little old lady says, “Excuse me, why do you Africans, er, African-Americans wear your hair all roped up like that?”
I didn’t address her concern about my hair. I didn’t even address the “you people” portion of her question. Instead, I told her that I wasn’t an African-American. I then went on about how it’s not like I moved to America from Africa, and eventually became a citizen. “In fact”, my rant continued, “I was born in Michigan. And not only have I never been to Africa, I don’t desire to go to Africa.” She just walked away as fast as her little feet could muster. I looked around for her handler, but I guess she was by herself.
Man, I was upset for a hot minute. I mean, I’m not African. African was the family I used to live down the hall from who made fish soup EVERY. FRIGGIN. DAY. They had the hallway and everyone’s apartments smelling like poop and feet and the back of a Chinese food restaurant. They came from Africa, and they eventually became citizens.
I laughed to myself after a few minutes. That encounter made me wonder about the way black people are perceived to other cultures and races. Then I remembered this out-of-the-blue conversation my girlfriend, Nena Grace told me she had with an old classmate on Facebook. See for yourself.
The girl, who is obviously a white person, thought that because Nena Grace is “African-American”, she could advise her on voodoo. Clearly embarrassed, this is the response Nena Grace got:
Let me just tell you that Nena Grace will not be “getting together” with this person any time soon.
Since both Nena Grace and I encountered similar situations with someone from another race within a month’s time, I wonder how often it happens to other people or other races. For example, Nena Grace was thought to have been knowledgeable on the subject of voodoo because she was pre-labeled “African-American”. With that said, have any of you ever been approached about your race’s stereotypes? Were you offended? Was I justified in being offended by the little old lady? Should Nena Grace have been offended by her classmate’s request?
- Self- Perception of the African American Race in American Society (theafricanwriter.wordpress.com)
- Plastic Surgery is on the Rise Amongst African Americans (aboutplasticsurgery.com)