Out of Africa

Once upon a time in 2008 (or 2009?), I was sitting down in a Starbucks, crocheting some items. While in the middle of sipping, crafting, and minding my own business, I notice a mid-late 50s white woman and a little girl who might have been 6 or 7. They’re whispering to each other and looking at me while standing less than 5 feet away. I’m just sitting there like,

The woman finally comes a bit closer and asks, “ARE YOU FROM THE STATES?”

I was expecting to hear something about hr learning how to crochet, but not keeping up, or that she was teaching (who I assumed was) her granddaughter. And she asked in a tone and volume that told me that she thought I was from another country and didn’t know enough English to have a conversation with her.

I’m thinking quickly. I can’t be super rude because there’s a child here, “angry Black woman”, I’m in a Starbucks in a somewhat affluent Philly suburb, etc. I would’ve been cuffed and dragged in no time.
I kindly tell her that I am, that I was born here.
“Which state?”
“This one.”
“Oh, well it’s just that I spent a year in Africa as a missionary. The women there used to do the craft work you’re doing. Since I spent time there, I can tell who’s African now.”

I had NO words.

Now y’all. I just…..she was so serious. I think I just nodded and put my head back down. What do I even say to that?!? I ended up heading down to the yarn shop I worked at, and told the crew.
“Wtf Jen!”
C was especially hilarious:

Were you dressed in your traditional dashiki?!? You know what? You should’ve told her you’re Norwegian.

No heavy message behind this, just a funny (and also sad) story I remembered as of late about dense people with privilege.


      • Every single time it’s something like this, I think, okay, they’re joking and I’m supposed to laugh, but damned if this isn’t the worst joke ever told.

        And then you get that invisible smack upside the head from your auntie four states away who is somehow aware of what’s going on, and you realize that this person is not kidding, and WTF kind of award are they expecting me to give them for thinking they know a thing when all they’ve really just done is show how set in stone their ignorance is?

        Liked by 2 people

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