i was sitting in the back of the cab trying my best to not fidget so much in the car. my freshly shaven legs poked out of my black stretch mini skirt and stuck to the hot pleather seat. the ac, blasting at full force, and set on the lowest temperature, was straining to pump air to the back of the sedan and it seemed to be having an extremely hard time reaching me. i could feel the cool air abruptly stop right at the tip of my nose and prance around in a torturous tease. salty sweat beads eagerly gathered around at my hairline like bees to summer honey as i mumbled painstakingly under my breath that i didn’t want my twist out to start messing up – i had a date in a few hours and did not have the time to try to redo my hair.
my cabbie, who couldn’t help but glance at me and all my awkward dancing across the hot seat through his rear view mirror, took note of my frustration and started to strike up a conversation with me to get my mind off the heat that was only amplified every time he hit a pot hole at what felt like 90 miles an hour; every bump repeatedly knocked over my pink tote spilling all of it’s contents on the floor. being the southern belle that i am, i obliged his sincere attempts to make this 30 min ride as smooth as possible. we talked and laughed at times about everything from the new black president to farmers markets and how to pick a good tomato to why women like high heel shoes even when they hurt their feet (including his wife) to the bad traffic and high humidity that day. when we finally got to my destination i was relieved to open the door and meet more sun belt, unapologetic hotness – albeit it temporary until i got inside my front door – i just wanted to get out of that sticky car!
after paying for my ride and taking my receipt the cabbie turned to me as i was placing one foot on the concrete and asked me if i was african and where exactly i was from in africa, as he cocked his head to the side and said he “couldn’t place me,” i smiled and blushed.
wait, me, lil ole kbella looks african? okay, i have to be completely honest, that was not the first time i’ve had someone from africa ask me if i was african. the nice, talkative cabbie was from africa and thought i might be too since, to him, i looked like i could also be african and additionally had a “very high forehead”; which as he continued on, is very common amongst different african people. in previous conversations, i had my ugandan friends tell me i look ugandan as well as my friends from ghana tell me i look like i could be from ghana.
it does not happen very often, but when it does, i welcome the compliment. i think african women are some of the most beautiful women on the planet and i am an african descendant. like many of you, i have no idea exactly where my ancestors came from less the region, so when i hear how i look like an african woman i’m not taken aback or see it as an insult, and why would i?
despite my always blushing at the words – i mean anyone who thinks i am as pretty as alek, iman or ajak gets a gold star in my book – i know many, many women who would consider any association in physical aesthetic an insult. how dare ANYONE equate their looks to that of a *gasp* african?! they’d rather hear something less…black and we all know that for some, african is just too black…too something.
i am not disillusioned about who i am as a woman. i know we have been colonized, miscegenized and have our own culture as “blacks” or “african americans”, but as a black woman, it just feels different when someone from africa looks me in the face and sees themself. it’s kinda like someone saying i look like my mom, or a great, great, great aunt. i’d never be able to see my looks or features being called african as an insult. we already have enough people telling us that all the black girls are ugly, and there is no need for me to step in an reinforce that idea with mental shortcomings that plague many.
i hopped out the cab and straightened my skirt. i could feel the heat from the setting sun pulsating through my tank top as it toasted the skin on my back. i turned to the cabbie as he rolled down his window and leaned across the cracked and peeling armrest, neck strained and eyes fixed on me, waiting for me to give him an answer to his question.
i smiled, “no, i’m not african, but thank you for the compliment.”
as he pulled away, i softly jumped on the sidewalk and walked inside my front door, steps from where i was just dropped off. my apartment was as cool as an ice chest and i lazily let my pink tote fall to the floor and slowly kicked off my flats as i flopped back onto my over-sized stuffed sofa with a heavy, gracious fall. i was still reeling from the heat but my smile remained. that cabbie had just made my day…at least until the next compliments came rolling in from my date later that evening.