The piece is mainly about American & British cultural differences which I got to experience early in the 2000’s.
I hadn’t even reached Ithaca, the tiny university town in upstate New York – my home for the next six years, as I studied for a PhD – when the confusion over my Blackness and British accent began. I was ill-prepared for Matt, the skinny white American in a cap sitting beside me on the plane. “But you don’t seem like you’re from London,” he said (I’m from Hackney, and very proud). Matt had never been to the UK, let alone London.
I got a lot of this in a different ways.
My best story in this space (which I have told too many times, but can’t seem to find on the blog) is when me and my ex drove into a fast food place in the mid-west. She parked the car and I went in to order in advance.
I walked through the door and up to the counter to order. The young short white woman with blonde hair said to me…
“Yo-yo, brother whats up? How ya doing? What can I get ya?”
In that moment, I was really confused thinking this isn’t the way to greet someone at all? And let out a “Uhhhh, what?!” in my typical British accent.
At that moment you could see the staff member’s face descend into utter confusion. The confusion was made clear as my ex followed me and made it clear what I was thinking.
Although its quite different from the Matt story, there is still something of a disconnect/confusion which is happening. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly. Maybe a light touch of stereotyping? (depending how you look at it)
I remember always being called African-American and trying to explain, nope I’m black or UK-Black. Some interesting discussions were had too.