I keep wondering how to begin this. I thought about having some sort of diatribe about when I was young or something along those lines but i think it should start with what has prompted this post, usurping one that shall be written soon. This inciting incident occurred a few weeks ago.
I was out with some friends at our local watering hole. I must admit, it was somewhat uncomfortable. I am used to being up and around. People being as loud and funny as I am. I will say I am a rather boisterous fellow. I remember a while back I was telling a story about how I shouted and a girl turns to me an says, “Wow, it must have been loud because you already speak so loud.” My first thought was something like , “Da Fuq?!” but then I realized she was just stating her opinion and there was no malice there. But that’s just me. So, I surround people as loud as me and who are as care free as I try to be. Those who love to dance to know music and freestyle rap about cleaning the house. We sometimes just yell for no reason incoherently. Would you be my neighbor? (kudos if you get the slight reference)
So, I am sitting in this dimly lit bar with wooden walls and wooden boards that creaked from aged use. A deer head hangs just above the big screen that plays my college’s baseball team, losing by the way. I had gone out with my friend Nic and she was meeting with some of her friends. So, there I was amongst a few people whom I didn’t know in this bar that looked like there may be a speak easy in the next room but upon my snooping I found that it only held an old jukebox. These people were very quiet, almost eerily quiet. I love awkward, revel in it. I think it is one of the funnier things that can happen in interpersonal communication but this was more of that silence and awkward conversation where everyone just wants to pretend they got a call and run away.
I tried to make idle conversation but it was just a sea of light laughs and bobbing heads. Then, a man in a leather vest came in and sat down next to me. I enjoy everyone and I will always be nice to individuals…well almost always. So, he sits down and begins talking about extremely conservative views. Gun Control, Homosexual Marriage and he spoke extensively of the ineptitude of “Jews and Orientals”. I don’t think I have ever been offended by someone that much in one sitting. Clenched jaw and bitten tongue.
So, I am talking to a young man who went to the same school as I did and I was telling him my epic “Interstate” story.
“Hold on, man, I don’t mean to interrupt,” the leather clad opinionated man interjected. In my head I thought, ‘yeah you did but go on.’
“I just can’t wait to hear you impression of Bryant Gumble,” He slaps me on my shoulder and begins laughing.
“I’m sorry man I had to,” he continues.
“Nice,” I say. Nice. I said nice in replace of the terrible things I wanted to say to him and ignored him for the rest of the night. He could tell I was upset because I never acknowledged him and he would tell a racist joke that just wasn’t funny and I wouldn’t laugh. Everyone else would because it was extremely uncomfortable and awkward when he said it but I was just fine being passive.
His comment was in regards to my voice not fitting in to his stereotypical colloquialisms that come along with his views. I guess everyone has their opinions but I have dealt with this before. Not this blatant, more subtle of course, but I have dealt with it my whole life.
As most of you know I am multi-racial, never say mixed; dogs are mixed. This aspect has always made me the odd man out. I always say that growing up, I was “almost black to white individuals and almost white to black individuals”. I always fit in the grey area. White individuals always accepted me but I was always that multi-racial friend. Black individuals felt that I wasn’t relateable.
Everywhere I would go, I was asked the same question: What Are You? It was offensive to me. These individuals couldn’t place me. They couldn’t use snap judgment on me in the way they were used to and it caused some sort of dissonance. I have always been a kind person, especially on that question, and so I answered them. Most of the time they would say, “You look Hawaiian or something”. I went to Hawaii and they said I looked Hawaiian. I am not Hawaiian. It would be great to have Polynesian slash Samoan roots but I don’t have them.
What Are You?
Now that I am older, I answer them honestly. All the races I am. I answer it but in my head I think, “this means nothing.” Race, the way they look at it, is categorical but to me it is a trait. I am right handed, multi-racial, and it takes me forever to grow facial hair. It follows in that line. I can’t tell you how many times I wish someone would ask more. Know me. No more ‘what are you’ but ‘who are you’.
I am pretty much a giant. 3 feet from shoulder to shoulder and 6’6″ and some change. So, I have never been shy about anything when it comes to a ‘what are you’ question but still, something just doesn’t sit well with me. Because of all of these things, I no longer care about what is on the person’s outside. I ask about the deeper questions and you would be surprised how open people are when you get real with them. When you ask them their honest thoughts and feelings you can connect on a level that is unbeatable. I do this with strangers because it is a chance to hear a new story. People are books; if you just read the title, you miss out on the chapters that lay within.
What Am I?
I am the fifth generation that came from a slave, to which we have copies of the sale papers when she was bought.
I am an older brother.
I am a journalist.
I am a lover of life.
I am a man with the blood of generations of laborers and farmers running through his veins.
I am more than my body can hold.
When I go back and think about all of the things that people have asked of me that were superficial, ie how tall am I, what race am I, how big of shoes I wear etc, I feel more and more distant from them. I get that I am not exactly the person who blends in but I guess the outside matches the inside. I have never been the type of person to sit by and let life go by. I want to embody life. My body may be big but my personality is bigger and I wouldn’t have it, or the friends whose claims are the same, any other way.