“What are you? Are you black? Because you look like you’re black,” said my boss for the day within five minutes of meeting me.
“No, I’m not black,” I said abruptly. I didn’t want to exchange any more with her as I was upset that how I looked was a topic that needed to be addressed before I started working. I thought it was best if I just went over to the desk she said would be mine for the day.
“You have to learn how to be polite especially on the phone. I’m talking to you,” she continued as I sat down without looking at her.
I let the phone ring. I surfed the internet. She signed my time sheet. I did not return to that office. Ever.
Suburbs of Cleveland, OH
“My name is not Melissa,” I corrected the old man teacher.
“What are you anyway? Are you mixed? Are you black?” All eyes were on me as I had to think of how to explain why I was darker than everyone in the second grade bible school class.
“No,” I softly said, embarrassed, sad and confused.
“Well, what are you?”
San Francisco Bay Area / San Carlos, CA
“I heard that the little African American girl got a promotion,” said the HR manager as she walked by my cube.
“Oh, who is that?” I said and she stopped walking to turn and look at me.
“You know, I’m not African American.”
“Well, you look like you are and your last name is Lewis. And, aren’t you from Cleveland, anyway?”
“I’m not African American,” as my heart pounded in my chest, wondering how I could report her for this and wondering if everyone at the office referred to me as the “little African American girl.”
By L.B. Lewis for September 21, 2016. Copyrighted. All rights reserved. Read more stories here.