I know I promised to write about religious differences today but I’ll save that for tomorrow. An incident today reminded me of another important topic I think should be addressed-reactions from other people when they see us together.
Earlier today we went to an air show in our area. While there, we saw more Indians than we’ve ever seen in our city. We live in an area where the Indian population is small compared to other cities, so when my husband sees other Indians he always turns to me and asks “Is that one of my cousins over there?” It’s much like I feel and act when I see another Black person in India. I’m grateful someone else is sharing the experience. But today when I came home I thought about the differences in reaction among Blacks that saw us and other Indians. Bear with me please while I explain.
When I was in India, stares were normal. I kept trying to figure out whether it was because they recognized me as being African American or if it was because I was larger than the average Indian or even if it was just because I was clearly American. Then I noticed something. Other Indians would mistake me for being Indian when I wore my hair straight. If I wore it curly, they would ask if I was from a multitude of places ranging from Morocco to Spain..but never America. I never found out why the stares happen but they were and are consistent with each visit to India.
Now across the seas is another thing. When I’m here at home, it’s not the Indians who stare and me and M. It’s fellow African Americans. Hispanics and Caucasians don’t seem to give us a second glance. Tonight we went to a family owned fish joint to get some take out. As I pulled in, I told M that I would run in and get the order. He teased me and said ‘why? Are you afraid to be seen with me?’ I laughed because I knew what he meant. The restaurant is black owned and the majority of its customers are black. The first time M ever stepped foot into this place a couple of years ago, the people stared at him as though he had dropped from Mars. We’ve laughed often about his reception there…so today we all decided to go in as a family, (us and the kids). We figured, if nothing else we could provide some entertainment for others while they waited on their food too. We knew what was going to happen and it did.
We felt like animals in a zoo! The guy at the register couldn’t stop staring at us long enough to ring up the order properly. The customers stared and one woman actually sat at the table with my children and kept looking back and forth at them and me and M . She was trying to figure it all out and she couldn’t.
I understand we make an unusual couple especially here in the south but WOW, the stares are unreal sometimes. Most of the cold reaction I get comes from blacks..black men specifically. Black women are usually more curious about how the union happened. Their stares don’t have cold hatred behind them like those of many black men. They view me as a sellout because I didn’t “stick with my race” (see ignorance runs in every culture). One man actually had the nerves to tell me this once. He further went on to say that I was an example of what was wrong with black women today that we keeping messing with these “f”ing foreigners.
M and I handle stares differently. He pretends like he doesn’t notice or care about them. I notice them and I DON’T pretend as though they don’t bother me because often they do-especially if I have my children with me. Usually when I catch someone staring us up and down, I stare back until they either break the stare or get up the courage to speak. I do this in India and I do this here at home and in each place I get the desired results. It’s about reminding people that you’re human and that they are gawking.
Thankfully my children aren’t old enough to understand that me and their poppa are the source of the extra attention. I hate the feeling that we are animals in a zoo to some people. I understand the curiosity…perhaps even the occasional ‘how the hell did THEY wind up together.’ But I’d much rather people simply asked me outright than to give weird looks and whispers. Stares can hurt, especially on days when you are feeling vulnerable. Stares are like whispered words of discontentment with what is being seen…like an oddity you’re not quite comfortable with.
If you’re a person who’s self conscious about how other people feel about you or view you when you are in a relationship, then perhaps you need to rethink being in a multi-cultural relationship because the stares will come. It’s just a matter of when.. but look at it as I do, fascination has its place and you never know who you may inspire when they see the two of you together. Until the next blog…