You’re Really Only Black? Just Black?

Men from Egypt say I look like I could be from there. Dominican men claim I could hail from that isle. So do Trinidadians and Ethiopians and Haitians. I’ve even heard this line from an East Indian Man. The most ridiculous turn of that phrase though is from Pakastanis. How exactly do I look like I could be from Pakistan with these dreadlocks? However, I’ve never argued with the Pakistani at the corner store because I’d rather we stay on friendly terms. He knows all of my after 4 AM habits (a Kit Kat if I’ve had martinis or wine; Potato chips if I’ve had margaritas).

Since the statement is only ever said to me by men, it’s quite obvious that it’s an unfortunate pick-up line. The worse kind of flirting. And offensive. If you’re trying to compliment my beauty, why is it necessary to compare me to a different nationality? Did you completely miss the black is beautiful movement?

Whenever I’m in Texas, I hear people say “African American.” It’s common in the media as well. I never say that in New York. If you say “African American,” you’re bound to get disagreement. The person from Jamaica says, I’m Jamaican. The person from Uganda says I’m African. The Canadian says, I’m Canadian. And so on. It’s just a terribly inaccurate term.

This brings me to another related question — “Where are you from?” It sounds like a genealogical query to me, so when asked, I used to answer with a dissertation on where I was born and the various cities I’ve lived in. New Yorkers don’t ask that question to learn what city, state or country you’re from. Instead, they’re really asking where do you live? Which nabe.

It’s an oddity because clearly most people aren’t from where they live. It becomes a circular conversation and up next is, “Where are your people from?” Saying Gary, Indiana isn’t the answer they’re looking for. They want to know what country.

So then it begins. Are you just black? Really only black?

Uh, yes. And that’s enough!


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