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.




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:



Facebook Comments

  • I’m sorry your welcome home was made less pleasant by that kid’s rudeness (even worse his parents’ rudeness in not correcting him). I don’t know how someone in America can be so surprised to see someone of a different ethnicity than themselves. Have they never looked around before? Or are they from some tiny town with only a couple families? I work in a school with kids of about every different ethnicity imaginable, that’s what America looks like.

  • A. Higgins

    i am saddened and surprised that this happened to you in Arizona. In my perhaps naive way, I wonder if the reaction was due to your beauty and flair. From the picture you posted, looks like the three of you would definitely turn heads.

  • Jennifer Raine Kostel

    Your blog was great. It is sad how this happens more often than not. Sorry you felt so unwelcome in your own country. I currently live outside the US and it’s been almost a year and a half since I was last there. It is definitely a strange feeling to go back when it has been so long.

  • crvena66

    What that kid said really sucks. People suck. I am embarrassed on their behalf. And on the behalf of Prague, although I hope the southern slavic countries are treating you better. No.. WAY better than that. I hope they see a kindred spirit and the beautiful woman that you are.

    I saw a black man when I was at a bus stop in Zagreb. (am I really talking about this? Racism still exists? how surreal, and well, boring..) In the United States I would have not even noticed. Nobody stared, as far as I could tell, but I thought of you! I was glad, because I honestly put myself in that man’s shoes. I love that city, and I hope he did too, and that he could love it and feel loved by it without having to expend the energy of filtering out B.S. I think he did, I hope he did.

    I also want to say that if I had opened my mouth, I would have been the outsider. I don’t speak the language fluently, and I am not with a man. I have had men make assessments of me based on being a single female.. without even having ANY idea of who I am as a person.. that I SHOULD be married.. with a man.. what is wrong with me.. etc… which also made me think of you. When people project their own crap on you, it has the potential of making you feel like an objectified piece of meat that simply exists for someone else. So you have me, once again, thinking about what freedom really means.. freedom from “other people’s shit”…. and that I am glad to see other people that embody it.

    I hate being seen as an object, from the perspective of a woman. It feels.. icky, for lack of a better word. To be a black woman, sadly, might add another dimension altogether. You are encountering small minds, but I can see that your mind is much bigger and seems to be growing exponentially.

    Having said all this, I (have to be honest) I might stare at you (and I am straight, into men) simply because you are stunningly beautiful. Still, this is no excuse to stare. I also suspect a bit of envy from others…. another great topic. Keep it coming!

  • crvena66

    I think via writing…and that also involves editing.. which is a pain in the arse on this blog page. 😉 About being a woman, (and imagining what it would like to be a black woman) feeling like an outsider, trying to blend in, saying “screw that, I am who I am” and seeing others who may not blend in as well. Feeling embarrassed on behalf of the country I was born in and also the origin of my roots.. and wondering why this is still an issue.

    Having said that, I really would like to hear more about the topic of objectification, which really feels like something slimy.. to the recipient. It feels like a game of screening out the BS of other human beings, and it can suck a lot of precious energy from our spirits. It must be exhausting, and I can clearly see that you have better things to do with your time and ENERGY. (you seem to be handling it well, though!) People can indeed SUCK.

    But I must say that you are beautiful, I would ( I admit) look twice, but not stare, as you are quite stunningly beautiful. As is your family.

  • Julie Boyce

    Wow, so many things to come to mind while reading your post. 1) I am so sorry you and your family had to go through this. I was fighting back tears as I read it. 2) America should be better than this but sadly things we seem to becoming more divided. 3) A memory of an experience I had came to mind. While at an awesome motivational seminar there was an exercise about judgements and first impressions. In groups of 4 we were asked to write down all of our thoughts about the others in the group. Then we had to SHARE them with each other!!! Talk about some torture. Although my thoughts seemed to focus on clothing, hair, etc., none we super negative (not sure why cuz I’m probably not any nicer than the next guy). But when the others spoke, I was shocked! The other 2 women said that they disliked the only man in the group because he was a MAN! How could that be a reason to outright reject someone?! When I was judged, I was told that because I was overweight, I was lazy and stupid!! Somehow I held it together and didn’t run out of the room crying hysterically, but on the inside I was so hurt. It was a really tough activity that I wouldn’t want to do again, but I did learn a lot about prejudice and how insidious it is. There are a lot of people out there judging us but we have to continue to remind ourselves of our own self-worth. When I’m feeling emotionally strong on the inside I really don’t care or even notice what the outside world thinks. That said, I know I haven’t experienced anything like what you went thru that day (or lots of day) and in your travels.

    Glo – You and your family look so happy with smiles for miles that would make anyone feel great to be around you. Those idiots in the restaurant must be very miserable on the inside. They have no idea that by rejecting people in that way, they are missing out on the best that life has to offer.

    Keep SMILING! 😀

  • Teacaketravels

    Well THAT freaking sucks. Seriously, what the hell?! Is this what usually happens in this area? You`re a strong, beautiful and amazing woman. Keep on rocking chica

  • JustGoPlaces

    I can’t believe it!! How incredibly rude. really, I blame the parents. Kids don’t know manners unless you teach them. What does ‘belonging’ look like? I would probably have snapped and asked them that question. Deplorable ignorance.

  • Emma Brooks

    Great post. I’m White, British and Fat! I too get those stares because my body is a different shape and doesn’t conform to the “norm”. Whilst on holiday in Egypt it was the Persian women who would look stare and talk about me (in their own language of course so I couldn’t understand). If I don’t have a problem with it why the hell should anyone else.

  • Glynda

    I have zero tolerance for ignorance and this I’m directing to the parents. However I’m dumbfounded by the stares you and your family were subjected to while trying to enjoy your time together. I definitely had a different idea of Arizona before I read this. Did you grow up there and was it like that before you left to travel? BTW your blog and IG posts are inspiring and I hope you enjoy your family and the time you are back in the states.

  • Ugh that is horrible. I can’t even imagine what that would feel like, and in your own country! I am really sorry that you and your family have to experience that kind of ignorance

  • Nnedi Ugo

    I feel your pain Gloria! I go to school in rural Pennsylvania and I get the same stares by the people that live there. It is sad to say that after all this time how divided and racist America is to this day. I am sorry that happened to you, but you know, you are better than them. I just hope things change one day.

  • See, I take ignorance way too personally. I would have had a nice 5 minute lecture for that little boy and his parents. Ugh. Anywho, at least yall looked uber cute!

  • Ruthie Myers

    I would have been staring because you have such a beautiful family! Sorry that happened to y’all!

  • 😮 How horrible. It shocked me too. I didn’t realise things were still like that in America (I’m Australian). There is far too much bigotry here as well – and I agree that it is extra ridiculous given just about all of us were immigrants at some point.

    Part of why we travel with our young kids is to ensure they grow up as global citizens and relish differences rather than fear them. One of the things I love about kids is that they don’t have any prejudices – at least not unless you give it to them.

  • elaine aljoe

    People of colour need to stop giving people power over them by thinking themselves inferior because of skin colour, and African features that came about due to an equatorial environment, jeez. how dumb can people be?
    Look what the environment did to Europeans and Adriatic peoples’ ,, thin nostrils to breathe cold air, silky long hair to keep them warm, and shortened genitals etc.
    Why ? …if you think my features are strange , I am thinking yours are much stranger, have you ever look at an ugly non-melanin person,and the older ones, especially over 35,like something that crawled from under a rock, better not have a queasy stomach.
    Thank God for being Caribbean, not one person on this planet can make me feel inferior.

  • Brandi Auset

    Happens to me every time I am in Phoenix! But in my experience, that look came from all races – which was the really surprising part. Getting that shitty stare from other Black people was disturbing. When I finally asked the friend I was there visiting what the hell was these folks problem, he said the same thing: “You look like you don’t belong.” He went on to explain that it was less of a race thing, and more of a “city mouse, county mouse” thing.
    Interesting place, Arizona.

  • Blackburn Brown

    I’ve lived in Phoenix about 18 months. The only strange looks I get is from other black people. You speak to them and they look at you as if you’ve cursed their first born, very strange.