The Motley News

On Being the Other


When I was in Thailand, I was met with a lot interesting stares from children. They hid behind their mother’s skirts and looked at me like I was the first black person they’d ever seen. I’m sure it was true.

They probably didn’t run into very many women who looked like me. I was tall, verging on hulking. I was dark skinned compared to them and I wore interesting western clothing. I dug that. I even thought it was amusing.

But here in the states, specifically Normal, IL, when I see children who act like the Thai. . . I am a little disturbed.

Today in the Coffeehouse, I drank tea with my friend Evan when a family of three small white girls sat down near to us. Evan gestured at one of the little girls saying, “I think she likes your head wrap.”

I looked over to see one of the little blonde girls staring at me, unabashedly. She finally waved and gave me a smile. I waved and smiled back, but felt odd about it. Her parents ignored us completely and that’s how their lunch continued. The little girl staring at me, unable to eat or go about her business and her parents pretending that wasn’t happening.

I felt like “the other.” And I suppose that’s what you have to deal with when you’re in a small Illinois town looking the way I do.What with my “flamboyant” and clearly “ethnic” head wrap. What felt normal to me, was completely out of the norm to others and it reminded me of what it felt like not to assimilate into popular culture.

What do you do?

You just deal with it, I guess. You pretend to go back to what you were doing, forcing the stares out of your consciousness. Or you snap on little kids and go: “WHAT?”

I see how difficult it is for women to go natural. It’s a lot work to carry your head upward and proudly, ignoring all response to your look. It’s much easier to assimilate, to go along to get along. I must admit, there are days that I leave the house wondering: “Is this too much?” And by too much, I mean too ethnic.

For those who straighten their hair or take out their piercings or wear longs sleeves over their tattoos, I understand why you do it. I don’t malign you at all. Just know that you are more than welcome to take a break from being “the other” and tomorrow you can go back to doing your thing. It’s our prerogative to be ourselves, isn’t it?

Author: charishreid

Writer and Educator.

2 thoughts on “On Being the Other

  1. I was a little unnerved when I read your story. I have a little picture, and on it is written: JUST BE YOURSELF. EVERYONE ELSE IS ALREADY TAKEN. That's something I believe in. How we handle such cases shows our maturity. Think you did what was best given they were children involved.

    Sadly, they can only mimic the behaviors of the adults (their parents) who nurture and care for them. The fact they said nothing to halt the young child's stares simply reinforces that it's fine to stare at people who are different. Sad…


  2. True, so true! No, I didn't snap on the child.


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