I consider myself a mutt. That is not the most politically correct of terms, but it gets my point across. I’m black and Puerto Rican, yet I do not look like either. I look like an “other.” Because of my long, blackish hair and sienna skin tone with slight olive hue, many people think I am either African or some type of Indian (Mexican, Native American, actual Indian, etc.). My looks have changed very little since I came into this world, and frankly speaking, I do not think my physical attributes are all that striking or bizarre as people sometimes make them out to be.
However, I have had experiences in every place I have resided that left me feeling a bit put off. It more or less comes down to my appearance. One specific incidence I doubt I will ever forget took place about two years ago in the Midwest.
On this particular morning, I left home for an appointment. The office building where it was to be held had a large waiting area for clients and a whole corner of the first floor sectioned off for receptionists and other workers. After providing my information to one of the ladies behind the counter, I found a seat and waited for someone to call my name. No sooner did I sit down with an outdated magazine plucked from the adjacent seat did the receptionist called me back to her desk. Naturally, I assumed it was my turn to be seen, but no. That was not the case at all. The receptionist called me back up to her desk just to ask the infamous question.
“Are you Indian or something?”
Yes, she was in fact that blunt. Since I’m used to the question, I chose to be polite and answer.
“No, I’m not. I’m actually a black Hispanic, or Afro-Latino.”
“What does that mean? Mexican?”
At this point, I am fighting the urge to shake this woman in the hopes that I might let loose a tiny bit of her ignorance. It was clear she had too much in her reservoir, but again, I chose to be the bigger person.
“Well, not all Hispanic people are from Mexico. Latin America alone has-“
“Yeah, but what are you if you’re not Mexican or Indian?”
This woman… With my last ounce of patience, I made the answer as plain as possible.
“I’m black and Puerto Rican.”
I thought that was the end of it, but no, she had to take it a step further.
“Oh, I figured you were something. You couldn’t be black looking the way you do.”
**More to come. Stay tuned.