Meeting new people is always a little daunting. You worry what they’ll think about you, whether or not you’ll make a good impression and whether you’ll say the right thing. As a person of colour, I refuse to assume that people’s interactions with me are swayed by the colour of my skin. But the reality is sometimes you wonder if your experiences would be different if you were another shade. I would love to believe that my race isn’t a factor when people meet me, but if you have eyes you’ll see the black girl with a loud afro and even louder body. Luckily most of the time I don’t feel judged, but accepted for who I am and everything that comes along with me.
I recently had an interaction that made me consider, what if it’s because I’m black? I had just got home and found my housemate had his brother over. In an attempt to be friendly I smiled and greeted him cheerily. “Hello” I said, “it’s nice to meet you.” But he didn’t answer. Instead I was met with a gaze that seemed to burn right through me. It was like he saw me and felt disgusted. I walked to the tap and brushed it off as paranoia. After drinking a glass of water I felt too uncomfortable to stay in the kitchen even though I was hungry and really wanted make dinner.
On my way out I made eye contact with him again and repeated myself. “Nice to meet you” with an even brighter smile. I wanted to assuage my doubts and my own insecurity. I wanted this man to see me and respond but he didn’t*.
He looked through me once again and didn’t answer. I so wanted to be wrong. I didn’t want to feel so unnerved by this man, but I was.
I kept thinking what could it be about me that he reacts so negatively to? Since we hadn’t interacted I had to assume it was something superficial. So I looked in the mirror.
This interaction reminded me that as much I was would like to feel like people don’t judge me on how I look but on how I treat them, the reality is sometimes people do. This question: is it because I’m black?, I feel has been turned somewhat culturally into a joke. I think it’s because we want it to be comedy. It’s funnier when it’s not true.
I believe that people want racial discrimination to be a relic of the past, something that has no place in the present or the future. However, this question is rooted in a very real fear that sometimes race is not accepted. The colour of your skin can sometimes be the basis of discrimination or even persecution. Given the current political climate in America, I can’t help but think of people who feel judged and somewhat stuck because of who they are and what they look like. It’s a sobering thought but unfortunately discrimination will not just fade away. It must be challenged and actively undone. We have to treat people more like humans and less like others.
*I have since seen this man twice and he has yet to interact me or even be polite.