Here in the Midwest, white people have various looks that they give when they see black people. There’s the simple visual acknowledgement: “that person is black” look. The surprised: “I didn’t expect to see one here” look. The alarmed: “I hope they’re not up to something” look. There are other looks, but you get the point.
Due to the hot weather, I’ve started wrapping my dreadlocks up in a scarf African/Caribbean-style to beat the heat. It’s worked like a charm and I’ll probably be wearing my hair like this through the month of August. The interesting thing about this is I’ve noticed a huge increase in the number of: “I hope she’s not up to something” looks. The first few times I thought I might be imagining things. A couple of weekends ago I was celebrating a friend’s birthday with brunch at a local casino complex. The customer service clerk processing my ID card for casino entry seemed completely flustered. Where she had been smiling and efficient with the previous customer, she looked at me as if she would like nothing better than to bolt to the rear office. She slid my card to me as if I had leprosy, I had to ask for the little flexible cord they give you to attach to your card and I had to attached the cord to the card myself (all the previous customers had that done for them by the clerk).
This is just one of a series of incidents that have been occurring ever since I started wrapping my hair up, but this last one finally prompted me to ask my husband if he thought I was imagining things. To my mixed relief (no, I’m not imaging things) and consternation (goddamn people…it’s just a head scarf) he said he had noticed too. My husband believes that people think I’m an Arab. I find this incredulous as I don’t even remotely look middle-eastern and my voice is 100% Midwestern. Please, please, please, please (James Brown-style) don’t tell me that Americans are that ignorant.