It started as a great night. Hanging with my favorite Fresnoian and a Coltrane enthusiast who re-piqued my curiosity for the artist, and allowed me to remember what Coltrane For Lovers was all about; let me opine about the wonders of “A Love Supreme.” I left the apartment feeling fulfilled and cultured and happy with my SF life.
The driver has long, black hair. The cab is moving fast through the streets, and the front windows are down. It’s California in February, and the breeze whipping around the car is fresh and warm and pleasant.After going a few blocks, the driver throws me a nauseating look through the rear view mirror, and asks, “Heyyyyy … Pretty Girl! Looking goooood pretty lady! Are you Mulatta?”Me: Huh??Him: That’s what we call it in our country of Brazil, yes?Me: I’m sorry???Him: Mulatta? You are dark skinned. That is what we call it. Yes?
The Roots take over for Santana. “Hey Philly,” I think vaguely, as I stumble through my reply.
“No. Haha. I am just American. Hehehe!”[I find the cute laugh to be more effective among leering womanizers. It’s my stern face that confuses them.]I was shocked. And too exhausted to launch into a diatribe about how the terms mulatto and mulatta were derived from the word mule- at least in its American lineage, and that it was an offensive thing to call someone (you’re in Amurr-ca now buddy, and all that). Too tired even to do more than wonder if this had anything to do with my wavy weave and “exotic” eyes. Even as I’m recounting the story, I don’t have the capacity to throw a humorous spin on the story. Why? Because, for the first time in a long while, I felt aggressively Black. And not just Black. African American. Operating on a particularly unique history, in conjunction with an intimate knowledge of the reality-versus-paranoia battle that many of us feel a part of every day.
At the end of the day, my biggest take-away from this situation was that ridiculous ish was happening to me, and that all was right in the world. That my personal victory against writer’s block (I’ve got nothing to post if the world doesn’t hit me with some reader-friendly schadenfreude) trumped my ever present (dun dun DUN) Blackness is a sad lesson in self-involvement all on its own. I won’t tackle it here though- I think I’ve already gotten too heavy.