Keepin' It Real Life Updates Public Journaling

I finally return to America only to be told I look like…

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes


My two sisters and I // Glendale, Arizona, USA
My two sisters and I // Glendale, Arizona, USA

I can’t help but secretly laugh at the irony of this situation and being told something I would only expect to hear in less progressive cities outside of the western world.

I was three days into being back on American soil (after being abroad for two years straight), trying hard to assimilate back into our consumeristic society.

I was slow to speak and quick to observe, in the case that my “Americaning” ways would be so far off.

It was the day after Christmas, and for the first time in five years, all six of my siblings (plus me) were under the same roof.

July 2010 // Phoenix, Arizona, USA
July 2010 // Phoenix, Arizona, USA
December 2015 // Phoenix, Arizona, USA
December 2015 // Phoenix, Arizona, USA

My eldest sister and I both came as a surprise, her arrival exactly one hour before mine, with neither of us having the slightest idea about each other’s plans to shock our family. I blogged about that a few days ago here.

At any rate, we (my two sisters and I pictured at the top) decide to hit Westgate, a complex of restaurants and bars near the Arizona Cardinals Stadium just a few minutes drive away from the house.

I feel the stares almost immediately.

The stares weren’t as bad as they were in Prague (feel free to bookmark that for a later read).

But they were very similar to the ones I got in the south of Spain. Or in eastern Europe. Or many places around the world that have seemingly never saw black people before.

Curiosity.

Intrigue.

Confusion.

Or just flat out stares of indifference. But nonetheless, stares directly and shamelessly into our eyes, grazing over our bodies, scanning our features. It is so uncomfortable.

Mind you, my sisters and I aren’t dressed to the nines, but we’re not looking homeless either!

My mom front and center with her 6 kids servin you sass on a silver platter. Holla.
My mom front and center with us 6 kids servin’ you sass on a silver platter. Holla.

We’re in everyday attire. In a public setting. On our way to a restaurant.

As you do.

Family after family, person after person, seemingly discovering this mystery of… black people? Black women? Serena Williams’ other sisters?

I ignore it for the most part, because I’m used to it and I’ve learned to not let it get to me. But I can tell my older sister is irritated.

We then make our way up an escalator to a Japanese Restaurant when a [caucasian] family all give us the stares of disapproval before one of the sons casually claims…

They look like they don’t belong here…

And the parents just continuing to look on, seemingly oblivious to the fact that HI, YES, WE ARE BLACK, BUT WE ALSO HAVE EARS, AND WE HEARD WHAT YOUR SNOTHEAD SON JUST SAID.

At least that was the vibe I got from my sis. Haha.

By that point, I was annoyed, especially because it was my first time being outside of the house since coming home (yes, I proudly hibernated in my bed for four days straight), and I guess I didn’t expect such an unwelcome “welcome”.

I didn’t have any expectations about being back in America, I just knew things wouldn’t feel as liberating as they did across the Atlantic.

I tried to calm my sister down, telling her I’ve experienced far worse stares in cities like Prague, and how if you let the ignorance and rudeness of every person get to you, you’re allowing them the capacity to dictate your day.

Never give someone that much power over you.

Easier said than done, of course.

We enter into the restaurant and it took a good 10 minutes of browsing through that overpriced sushi menu and realizing this isn’t helping the situation before we ended up leaving and agreeing on Buffalo Wild Wings as the American better alternative.

We may never see that family again, and they will probably never read or see this post.

But for those of you that are seeing this, please teach and raise your kids not to judge or devalue a person based on their different appearances.

Such a basic and standard level of humanity that’s lost over so many. It’s sad.

My Nigerian-born mother and I who has American citizenship.
My Nigerian-born mother who fought and worked hard for her American citizenship.

I don’t even want to imagine the comments being thrown towards Muslims in America today by people and families that have such little regard for fellow human beings.

I can’t give travel all the credit, but I do know that had I not experienced the same type of looks and treatment in other countries, I’d let every person’s narrow-mindedness get to me.

I also realize that not everyone has the tolerance level I do for ignorance.

I don’t blame the sons any more than I blame the parents for not reacting after the comment was made in our faces, and probably not correcting their son’s words after the fact.

If you don’t travel for any other reason, do it to learn the many shapes, forms, colors, and sizes that people of the same human species you share, can come in. Because at the end of the day, we’re all so much more alike than we are different.

And the next time you want to make a borderline racist comment about people who look like they “don’t belong” while in a country founded by immigrants, I encourage you to throw away the very tainted image of what you think an American should look like, and replace it with pictures like these:

americans
AMERICANS THAT LOOK LIKE THEY BELONG.

 

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