A Walking Stereotype #2

My biggest identifier since landing in Ghana has been the color of my skin. I can not walk out of the house a single day without the word ‘abroni’ (white person) being yelled at me from every person I see on the streets. With all of the racial tensions and the complexity of racial identities in America, at first I was a little offended. However, what I quickly learned is that it was purely coming from a place of curiosity 0ver everything else.

But what happens when you’re suddenly being defined by your race when at home, your skin is what makes you invisible?

I know, I know. No one wants to hear about a white person talking about the color of their skin, trust me, I get it. I am by no means complaining but I would be lying if I said that the transition from being a random face in a crowd to being the caged animal at the zoo that everyone stares at wasn’t an interesting transition. At home I have the luxury of blending in because of my race and I have to think very little about being white and how others see me because of it. I am very aware that many people in America do not have this type of unspoken privilege and I by no means understand a lifetime of uncomfortable encounters in your own country just because I’ve lived through a month of awkward interactions. But at base value, this is my experience.

It has become very difficult to connect and have meaning relationships when people are only talking to you and only looking at you because of the color of your skin. Within my first week a random man mistook me for someone else and then replied, “Oh, all whites look the same, how am I supposed to tell them apart?” While I know that he did not intend for it to be offensive, it certainly was in that moment. I know that 99% of the time that a random person talks to me in this country it is because I am white. I know that 99% of the time I get told how beautiful I am in this country it is because I am white. I know that 99% of the time I am charged more money for basic goods in this country it is because I am white. I know that every time I get more attention while walking the streets than the other American girls in this country it is because I am white, and they are not. I am so aware that I am white here and that it dictates all of my interactions on a daily basis.

But what does that mean? Well, quite honestly, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting having to feel like I represent my race and my country at all times. I constantly feel like I need to be overly polite and accepting of situations. No, I will not say anything at a restaurant when they give me the wrong food over an hour after I ordered with no explanations because I do not want to fulfill the  stereotype of Americans being ‘hard to please.’ No, I will not say anything to the people who run down the street to touch my skin just because I am white even though on the inside I’m screaming. No, I will not say anything to the people who shout ‘white person’ at me while I am anywhere in public because they simply just don’t understand that what they’re doing is offensive and uncomfortable for me.

At the end of the day, it’s frustrating feeling like you can’t be who you are because you are representing a race of people who have little to no connection to you.

 

2 thoughts on “A Walking Stereotype #2

  • June 19, 2017 at 9:09 pm
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    I must say, this is an extremely well written piece and hearing about your experience was interesting. I will not say I sympathize with you (not that I don’t) or that I understand what you’re going through (even though I do) because as you mentioned, being in Ghana for a while as a white person and being black in the US are two completely different things. However, I will say that I appreciate you being so candid and thoughtful in your post, and I hope you eventually are able to feel comfort in that you don’t represent all of the US and any feelings you have or reactions you want to have are completely valid.

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  • June 22, 2017 at 5:53 pm
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    This is such a well-articulated reflection! It can definitely be exhausting to feel like you are representing all Americans or that people are only trying to connect with you due to some interest in your race (definitely has happened to me here in the US with guys with “yellow fever”) and not who you are as a person. I want to reiterate what Diarra said in that your reactions are completely valid.

    One thing that may help with that is to develop closer relationships with a few people, whether it’s with store keepers or with local people who can help ease the burden in small ways, such as if they told the cook that the order was incorrect. It sometimes really annoyed me when I lived in Taiwan and random strangers who knew I clearly wasn’t from there approached me with questions, but I grew to use that as a chance to learn more about them and try to connect.

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