Just recently, while talking on my cell phone in Dutch to a Norwegian friend of mine who speaks Dutch, I was overheard by a few bystanders who stood with a look of awe and amazement listening to my conversation. I was at the Olive Garden restaurant waiting to be seated along with a few other patrons. At the end of my conversation, a Caucasian lady drew my attention and asked: “Were you speaking a different language? What was it?” I responded that I was speaking Dutch. Her response and reaction, which was not unlike what I had encountered multiple times before, was: “Really? Dutch? You speak Dutch? Wow! That’s incredible! You sounded so fluent!” I then responded by sharing that Dutch was one of my two native languages, and that my other native language was Papiamento. She no doubt noticed my skin color and asked “So, are you from Africa?” to which I then calmly and smilingly replied “No ma’am, I’m from Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, off the coast of South America.”
So what is so noteworthy of this exchange that prompted me to share it with you? Why do you think this Caucasian lady and the other Caucasian and non-Caucasian bystanders (including Americans of African heritage) reacted that way? Would the reaction and comments have been different, or even have occurred, had I NOT been a man of very dark complexion?
What is your take? Please share your ideas and responses with me and with the world.
Add comment November 8th, 2009