The other day I read a post called 3 things I like about my personality and the post was real and honest. I really felt where the author was coming from (you can read it here). This lead me to think about ways I can be more honest and more personal in my writing. I am happy for the people who decided to follow me on this journey called life. As I evolve so will my blog.
Our phones are like our lifelines and we practically can’t live without them. I have lost several phones in the past. Most of the time, I remember exactly where I lost my phone, but the moment it was lost I was too busy to be aware.
The first phone I lost was when I was in high school. This is etched in my memory because I was a senior and I had my drivers license for a while but did not have a car. There was a basketball game one night and my mom told me she would let me borrow her car. As a teenager having a car was the ultimate way to get cool points. I told a couple of my friends that I would pick them up. We planned on going to McDonald’s or something basic like that. The catch was I could only borrow her car if I had my phone. That was the day I lost my phone and I had to let my mom drive me to the game. I assume I Ieft it on the school bus because that was the last time I remember having it. Anyway, I can never forget that time. But imagine losing your phone in a foreign country where they don’t speak your language. This happened to one of my friends in Kuwait.
“What happens when you lose your phone in a foreign country?”
Last year I went to the movies with some friends. It was just a regular random night out. It was a little late – Kuwaitis are nocturnal. Most places close around 11:00pm or later. Me and my friends decided to go to the Mariana Mall to see Justice League. I fell asleep halfway through the movie because it was really boring.
By the time the movie was over it was probably around 11 or so. The mall was close but there was still one more viewing. We left and looked for a taxi. As soon as we got in the taxi one of my friends realized she forgot her phone in the theater. I thought since the mall was closed we would have better luck calling them the next day. But she wanted to try her luck while we were still there. We climbed out of the taxi and search for someone to help us.
We had to go through the parking lot since the mall was closed. We searched for some employees and finally came across some security guards. My friend walked up to the security guards and she tried to explain the situation. She clumsily made gestures with her hands simplifying her words trying to help them understand. I felt like they were a little dismissive, but we had to make them understand, this was her phone. I tried to help her explain to no avail. Finally, my other friend who speaks Arabic told them and they immediately understood. So one of the security guards lead us back into the mall and he started speaking to my friend in Arabic. All I remember from the conversation was that she kept saying “American, no American.” I made a mental note that I would ask her what that was about once the guard was gone.
We walked through the mall and to the doors of the theater were the employees slowly unlocked the doors with confused looks on their face. This time we didn’t have to bother trying to explain the problem, the security guard told the employee our situation. My friend went in the theater where we were sitting and after going over the spots a couple of times she found her phone. We were all relieved.
I was happy she didn’t listen to me and that we did it that night because the whole ordeal was stressful and it wasn’t even my phone. My friend that speaks Arabic ask us if we had our passports on us and she recommended that we keep a copy on us all the time. It didn’t alarm me at the moment because that is normal advice when in a foreign country. Always, if you don’t want to have your passport, at least have a copy of your passport. When we got another taxi she told us what the guy was talking about and it really struck me.
Before I tell you what he said, I need to reveal our identities. Me and my friend that lost her phone are African American. Both of us are considered dark skin in the black community. My Arabic speaking friend is Jordanian American. While in her community she is considered darker compared to other family members, she can easily pass for white in America. The security guy told her to “not hang with those Africans” – I was highly offended.
“Make sure you always have a copy of your passport.”
I was offended because of the implication that there is a problem hanging with us because we look African. I was also offended because I was called African. Not only did this bother me because I was being stereotyped because of the color of my skin, but also that I was seen as just African and not American. With all of the negative stereotypes that come with American, being American comes with some privileges. When you look American, white and blonde hair you are like a prize in this country.
Up until this point, I was aware that ignorant people see African woman as being prostitutes and I felt comfortable knowing that me being American, people wouldn’t think that of me. However, this situation helped me to realize that no one knows where I’m from just by looking at me. I realize that I could not find comfort in knowing that I am American because I don’t look American.
This is the first time in my life when I felt stereotyped because of my skin color. This is not about being African or American, this is simply about having dark skin. The bottom of the totem pole, what people try to make seem like the scum of the earth. The least liked, the most envied for our features, fetishized, but not claimed. Not loved in the world’s eyes. I haven’t felt like this since I was a child. It made me feel helpless because I realized that it doesn’t matter where I am – black is black no matter where you are from.
Lucky for me I have been black all my life and I am aware of the way other’s may see me. But most importantly I am aware of the way I see myself. I know myself better than ignorant people who see white as right and black as wack. I know better than those people who only have images of the media to define me by my skin. I know who I am and I am still learning, so while it bothered me and made me feel small, it helped me to open my eyes. I was reminded that I am black and people will see me negatively, but what’s new?