A costume I can’t take off.

Athens, GA

Centuries ago, on the Horn of Africa, where my parents originated, Arabs crossed the Red Sea then crossbred and/or raped the indigenous Africans. This event has confused generations of “my” peoples’ sense of identity. I pose the question to my mother, “What are we?”, to which she responds, “Look in the mirror. You’re black.” I go off to my ghetto middle school, armed with an answer. When I reply that I’m black, usually an African American shrew scoffs with, “N-word, you ain’t black.” At night, before prayer at the mosque, the Indians claim me as their own. I go home perplexed. Before dinner, my admirable father (who has silky hair and soft-brown skin) relays an anecdote from his work: A Caucasian coworker stormed over to his cubicle, demanding an answer regarding his race–but writes-off “black” as an option. However, as I’ve aged, more people have categorized me as black. Right before an exam, I always hesitate between bubbling in “African American” or choosing the unsituated “Other.” Most of the time I half-heartedly choose the latter.


Tweets by Michele Norris