No, you will never understand
What it feels like to walk a mile in my shoes,
So hold your tongue
When you feel the urge to ask me
Whether it’s now okay to use the N-word.
All I have ever known is being a foreigner
I would love to say the stares get a little easier
And at times, it feels like no one can get to you
But when a community singles you out
For the way you look, you’re bound to get taken off balance
Feeling the unofficial divide between you and them.
Do I need to keep reminding them
That I worked for everything I have?
Maybe give them some proof?
That being black does not entail every solution I see
Lies behind a cocked gun?
And that is where the problem is; approval,
I do not need to explain myself to you or anyone else
Contrary to your sphere of understanding
It is not my life mission for you to make me feel included.
– O.D. ©2018
Art by: Paginacero
Working in a foreign country can indeed have its benefits. On the flip side, however, it is notably much easier to feel like an outsider. I’m in Thailand right now and where I work I’m the only black person, it’s a pretty cool place, and I truly appreciate some of the co-workers I have come to call friends. Here’s the thing though, when I initially started working there my abilities were constantly put into question; most of the higher ups wondered if I was up to the task (they were not really subtle about it).
My line of work needs people with great proficiency in the English language, and it was only when I showed my certificates that they started to take me seriously. Many might think I’m reading too much into this, I would agree if other employees went under such rigorous scrutiny. My friend (from Russia) was surprised when he heard how everyone was questioning my skill; considering how he relies on my help at times. You should have seen their faces when I showed them my qualifications, they could not believe it, their perception shifted entirely. A black person with more skill than his boss, unbelievable.
“People here are afraid of black people because of what they see in the movies” verbatim from a co-worker; she was right. Even my neighbour, really lovely old lady, I used to greet her every morning. I say ‘used to’ because I eventually stopped when I realized that she is actually afraid of me. She is so afraid to the point where, if we are about to cross paths, she walks in the opposite direction to avoid coming into contact with me. At first, I thought I was just being crazy, but when I saw that happen five or so times, in a row, I knew there was something fishy going on.
And these are some of the things I encounter on a daily. I am generally positive, but it’s these lingering issues that take a toll on me, and in all honesty, I have run out of excuses to give others. I do appreciate all the people who see me regardless of my ethnicity, and those are the only people I associate with. Those are the only people I use my time and energy on.
These poems I write about being black, they come from a real place. I’m not asking for sympathy but expressing my thoughts to those that take the time to read what goes on in my mind. It’s not easy being black, but at the same time, I would never choose to be anything else.