So, it’s 1:30 and our neighbors are having a party. We live in the multi-cultural theme housing, but I rarely see or talk to any of my neighbors. I think the most cultural aspect of this little neighborhood is the “black music that they are playing right now. Yeah, all night has been hip hop. It is pretty weird, especially in this rather mono-ethnic environment.
Outside my department or the organizaitons such as Black Graduate Students Association or Muslim Student Awareness Network or ISSU, hardly anyone ever speaks to us or bothers to get into a conversation. Outside of some ethnic or religious commanality, there is always some awkwardness in making any bridges. The thing that makes it strange is that I grew up in a well integrated area. I even lived in a multi-racial household. So, I actually am pretty adept at moving back and forth between black worlds and white worlds. But Stanford has this special class divide.
Last Summer while I was in a summer program my lil Brazilian sis and I went to the Lake with our white classmate. This white sister kept saying that she now knew how we felt in all white Middlebury as the only black girls in the program of 120 students. She was not the minority because two of us were black. She stated that she felt awkward when my sis and I were cracking jokes about being ashy. Maybe it is not normalized for them to be the minority, but everyday I cycle through campus, I am aware that I am rather an anomoly. I think that it is an opportunity to learn and develop one’s patience. Perhaps more people should experience that awkward feeling.
Last year, my roommate and I were invited to one of the grad get togethers organized by one of my neighbors. I think two people came up to me and my roomate and tried to strike up some awkward conversation. White students approach the Black Graduate students tables at the student organization fairs all scared. We have offered free water and candy. They will venture near for some water or candy saying something like, “I’m not black but I’d like some water.” I said several times, “Hey you are welcome to some water, just as you are welcome to join us at a number of our events, such as barbecues, meetings, lectures, and cultural events.” I also said, “This organization is open for anybody who is interested in black culture or issues.” They wouldn’t sign up to learn anything about the few black people on campus concentrated in one geographic area. Even at the end of the year BBQ, they would be all scared, and walk by staring. At times, some would come by for a hamburger and scuttle off.
For a long time, I would get annoyed and would want to not think how much race seems to matter to people. But every so often, in unsuspecting moments it comes up. Like the last day I was leaving Durham England and in a brief conversation a British dude told me that because the color of my skin people would treat me differently. Plus, all attempts to touch and comments about my hair. Or asking some old dude the time and him saying “I don’t talk to n—-s.” Or sitting in Arabic class and the teacher pointing out, “Aziza is black, her skin color is black, she’s black black bliggity black” I was irritated, I said, “No, my color is brown.” “I am of African descent” “The name of my people is Black” and they he ignored me and for days to demonstrate colors, he said, “Like Aziza there is no one like her her color is black.” (these are translated from the Arabic) Meanwhile, in Arabic, there are names for people who are tan, people who are fair with blonde hair, and people who are ruddy. So black encompasses a million shades of brown. For a language as subtle as Arabic, I find the lack of distinction between ethnic groups and the infiinite variety in black people very obnoxious. Finally, I looked at the sketches of the suspects who jacked two stanford students. The descriptions and sketches sort of resemble two business school students. So, not only do they have to worry about getting jacked, but they will always be the usual suspects.
Final shady note, one friend pointed out that in white neighborhoods that have those shady XXX video rentals, you will always notice how the black porns are always sold out. So, it sort of makes me wonder about the weird voyaristic fantasies that people have with the “Dark Continent” and peoples of African descent.
Tonight’s party reminds me what a strange world we live in where people seem to love black music, obsessed with black sexuality, and black sports stars, but they don’t like black people. Well, if you don’t try to get to know us as real people with hopes, dreams and aspirations just like you, then you don’t have to humanize us, right?