I have this one friend. I’m not really saying who he is, but we can call him ‘Jeremy’ and assume that he is living and working in Pakistan at the moment.
The reason I’m talking about ‘Jeremy’ is because he has this thing where he cuts me off with a sarcastic ‘yawn‘ every time I start heading towards a great big rant/philosophizing/update on anything race related.
And so I am dedicating this post to him. (‘Jeremy’, as it turns out, is also working through his racial angst and you can read all about that here)
Obviously, living in Europe has exposed me to racial issues that I never even dreamed of. For example, I haven’t adjusted to the fact that people look at me and see a black girl. And this produces a range of reactions that I’m going to broadly stereotype and make assumptions that may or not be correct. (See what I’m doing here?)
And so here is my list of racists:
The Awkward ones
TAO: So where do you come from?
TAO: OOOOOOHHH, K-E-N-I-A?? (In that really slow, loud voice most people use when talking to deaf people.)
TAO: Well, I’ve never been to Africa. Followed by awkward silence/vague references to safaris and the joys and simplicities of the warm African spirit.
Well good for you.
The Openly Hostile
There is once I was waiting by the bus stop for one very very unreliable friend. Since I rarely make any attempt to look feminine, I was casually leaning against the wall, smoking a cigarette and wearing my most badass-dont-mess-with-me face. Then this little f*ck gets off the bus and starts shooting me dirty looks while furiously going through his pockets looking for his phone. He breaks into a half jog, all the while throwing glances back at me and fumbling with his phone/potentially deadly weapon/army knife/I don’t know. I got irritated and asked him, ‘What? What are you looking at?’, followed by ‘keep walking, the hell?’. He crossed the road in his frantic state and disappeared into the night.
I was baffled. I mean, how scary can one 1.65 female really be? My naive mind still has no explanation for that little sh*t’s actions.
Thankfully, the hostile ones are mostly limited to feeble geriatrics eyeballing you on the train as they wish for the good old days when darkies knew their place and Europe was the center of the world. Well…sorry grandma, shit happens. And by shit I mean your neighbourhood will continue to be overun by good for nothing immigrants, k?
These ones are almost always exclusively socially awkward Asians, and for some strange reason, the Turkish. I guess because they have no embarassing history with Africa and since negroes rarely head out that far, they have a child like curiosity about black people. So I can be sitting with a group of people and suddenly feel a hand tentatively touching my hair.
Or deal with conversational nuclear bombs such as:
I think black people have good eyesight because instead of reading, they go hunting.
Leaving everyone slightly uncomfortable.
The ones who don’t quite know what to do
Apparently we stereotype because our minds simply can’t pause to analyze every single thing in great detail else we would be unable to function.
Add on to the fact that everyone wants to appear politically correct and liberal, and sometimes the two just don’t go together. This was especially clear when I was looking for a place to stay. So I’d make a call in my rudimentary French and set up an appointment to view the flat.
A black girl shows up. Landlord tries desperately hard to be polite and beat his prejudices. But the pauses are too long and the atmosphere too strained.
Needless to say, a polite rejection comes in a couple of days later. Oh, how civilized.
This is my best and worst category. The worst is when I meet drunk old women in bars where their granddaughters hang out, and get cornered into a spitfest about how she ‘prefers black people’ and ‘is/was married to a black guy’ and how much her wobbly wrinkly ass loves Mandingo…or the nastly little old men who think they can grab my ass.
The best is when the boys from behind the iron curtain drool all over the sisters. Or as my Greek friend put it
I have never been with a coloured girl, but I want to try. It’s like the french say, taste a little bit of everything.
Well, my brother, keep the drinks coming and be honest about your motivations and you are good with me!
The ones who think they are funny
And, of course, fielding comments and ‘jokes’ from friends. For example, I was chatting with a gentleman working in our building. Banter, teasing, that sort of thing. When…
Your accent is terrible. I can’t understand what you are saying!
Now, this coming from a former Eastern bloc brother who can’t tell the difference between v and w and missing half of the English vocabulary…..
I would be expected to get angry.
What? Me? I have an accent? I speak perfect English! YOU have an accent.
And then storm off in a huff.
But Trevor says it best:
Instead, a nice, back handed sarcastic comment earned me not so cheap 3d tickets to Tintin.
Lemons into lemonade, boys and girls.
No need trippin’ over fools.