To those on the streets of Cameroon I am referred to as “la blanche” or “white person.” Sometimes little children excitedly point and run to tell their friends when I approach as if I was some sort of exotic animal. I know they do not mean anything by it, and yet I feel like I am like the village attraction (actually, I think I amthe village attraction). Adults in the market try to get my attention essentially by calling out “hey white person, we have great white people stuff here, come buy from me!” Can you imagine if in the States cell phone vendors called out to the people passing by, “Hey, you black person, I’ve got the perfect phone for you”? Or “Hey yellow man, come in here the products are made in Asia”? There would be law suits and maybe riots!
I feel like when people see me, they do not see me, but instead only see my skin color and/or country of origin. I feel like they judge me based on the other handful of Americans they have known, or on what they have seen in the movies. A perfect example of this was when I was in France and guy heard me talking to Dave in English and approached us quoting a vulgar English rap song. He assumed that since we are from the same country as this particular rap artist, we must have the same moral code. Why would he assume this? Was it because I somehow communicated that I accept immorality…or was instead because he labeled me before he even spoke to me? It seems to me that, right or wrong, it is within human nature, no matter the culture, to judge based on appearance. And to the person being judged, it just stinks.