The last time someone asked me where I was from, I was at work. I work in a bar and it tends to be the hotspot for enquiries of such qualms… People with question marks walk through these spaces, I guess we both are looking for answers. A middle aged man approached me while I was behind the bar, and as any employee, I did the same. Asked the regular, ‘hi, how are you? Would you like a drink?’ he replied by asking for a beer, and I did so. Our small talk extended to the day’s activities, followed by an abrupt eagerness to know—‘Where are you from?’
I usually don’t mind the question. I’ve build up a wall against my anger at such ignorance. Plus, white folk are curious as fuck - heck - humans are. But the way this man kept insisting even after I told him, was unacceptable.
I told him: ‘here, Australia?’
He replied with ‘No! But really—where?’ I stated this three times to his face and he still searched for more as if it was his sole agenda for the night: the pursuit of knowing the true origins of a stranger, without
knowing their name, who they are, what they like/dislike, what they’re like.
I must be my blackness?
It took my supervisor coming up to us both to defuse the situation. I am the question mark. That’s all I am… I know barely as much as you. Who am I? Who am I to you, another UFC player, a black sis that looks like a basketball player? Will Smith or the next up-and-coming black rapper… I must not be me then?
This idea of me not being me because of this mask placed on my face—my identity. To further heighten this, I go out the front to pick up a few glasses and smoke a cigarette on my break. He decides to come back, fired-up and ready for more probing. Right in my face, five-centimetres away, he asks again… insisting to know WHERE?
I truly hated people for a while, but more or less, myself. Why can’t you blend in? Dilute the shades. Perfect hue.
I was lucky enough to have lovely people around to witness and lend a hand with what I wasn’t able to release within myself. I let this happen. Again. I bit my tongue again. It’s swelling. I’m drinking more of my own blood than water. My skin festers in repulse of flourishing only to be sustained in place. The rules I never agreed to, but my passport holds my face, so the captain fires his bullets, aimed at my skin, aimed at me. Shots are fired.
But my skin is made of vibranium.
I can’t be mad; I’ll get misinterpreted.
I can’t be sad; I’ll be walked all over.
I want to be strong, but I fear the blood-knife nears to my heart.
I can educate? But I am tired after the twentieth person today…
So I NEED to be patient.