Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is this normal behaviour?

Earlier, I mentioned there was one other African girl in one of my classes in this post? Well, she's still in my class. Anyway, the instructor, I guess in a bid to show how working within our exact group people affects opinions, asked us to divide ourselves into groups, specifically our gender and race groups. That is white females, black females and the same groups for the males. Which brings me to an interesting observation I've made. There are no latinos in any grad school. The percentage is just very very small when they exist, its negligible. And this for a race that is so abundant in this continent. And I have bothered to verify this observation with friends in at least 5 other post grad institutions. But I digress. Where was I? Oh. The race, gender groups. Since this is one of those no brainer, don't need to spend 3 minutes figuring out a group to join moments, I decided to dash out to the office because I needed to get a parking sticker before the lady left.

By the time I returned, the discussion had started and the points the instructor wanted were well underway. Seeing that I was a little late, I spent the next 5 minutes getting caught up and then scripting the presentation. Then I looked around and something struck me as odd.

me: Where is that girl?
girl 1: You didn't see her?
me: (wondering who she thinks I'm referring to). I mean the other girl from Somali.
girl 1: I know
me: She was here before this exercise, right?
girl 1 &2: yeah, she's still here. (gales of laughter abound).
me: (definitely confused. Also concerned that they may have offended her so she left) What happened to her?
several girls: (amidst gales of laughter) she went with the white girls (they were working outside the classroom)
me: No, I'm talking about the girl (wrapping hands around my head to demonstrate her religious head wrap that she wears)

By this time, everyone else was laughing so hard. Mostly at me. I looked so flabbergasted, they later explained.

It turns out this chic decided she was white and went with the white girls' team.

I wonder how uncomfortable she made that exercise for them.

I inquired of the other black girls in class if anyone had asked her where she was going. They replied no. I wondered if she didn't hear the instructor clearly. Well, this girl understands English with no issues.

Later, after groups had presented, which included the presenting groups sitting in a circle in the middle of class, she offered an explanation. Despite the fact that no one asked for it.

She said she was African and she didn't understand this black or white divides. She was African. When people ask her if she is black or white, she gets confused. She is just African. blah, blah, blah, blah.

I held my peace. I was very offended by this explanation. I hate it when people represent Africans as resounding idiots. And this was one of those moments. I have never wondered if I might perhaps be white. C'mon, it's not rocket science.

My opinion? This girl epitomizes self hate. She despises herself so much plus she has a great ability to entertain denial. Beyond normal capabilities. But she felt dumb and uncomfortable. Otherwise she wouldn't have offered that cheesy explanation she did. I'm still wondering how much you have to hate your skin color to expose yourself to that kind of quiet ridicule she underwent. Not so quiet. Seriously, myself and some girls laughed when she walked to the middle with the white girls. It was more than ridiculous and would have been forgivable only if a) she were blind or b) had never looked into a mirror. I wonder if she ever stopped to think about how damaging to the overall exercise her presence amongst the white girls' was.

That's my opinion. I could be wrong. Tell me people, have you ever wondered what race you belonged to? Is this a normal phenomenon, especially to a person who is not of a mixed race?