23 January 2009

Asians & Spaniards | Common Denominator

Research has shown both people from Spain and people from China love to stare at Black people. Being alone in San Francisco has taken me back to my days in Spain, when I first encountered open gawking. It angered me off then and infuriates me more now.

Then, I partly understood. There were very few Black people in Spain. There were a few Africans, but they were mostly hookers and beggars. And the reality is Black people typically don't travel abroad. Other Black girls in my program had the same experience. One was spit on, so her experience was clearly worse. I was just watched. And took to staring back. I had open staring contests with passersby. If that meant turning around and walking backwards, so be it.

Now it's back and it's more annoying because I knew this would happen. I did not want to live in Chinatown (or in any neighborhood where the people are all the same) because I don't like people staring at me. But our apartment is perfect and at first everything was fine, which makes me that much angrier now.

No one stared when I walked with Jesse. I was likely dismissed as a tourist with my Anglo Escort. He's back home now though and I'm left to tower over everyone in Chinatown by myself. The gawking has commenced. We're talking open mouth, head turning stares. I have started staring back with my head titled, walking backwards when I must. I smile at the kids, old ladies, and old men -- who aren't always staring at my face.

More than that, I know they know all about me. I had to talk to my mail carrier. I waited for her outside of my building.

"Hi, I have a question about a letter I shuld have received but didn't."
"You're in #4 right?"

I did not tell her my name. I doubt she knows the other neighbors - they're not home at 2PM. The only person who is usually home (I'm usually at the gym) is the Chinese lady on the bottom floor.

It's frustrating and very disappointing. I wanted very much to believe Chinatown was not Spain, that the mentality between a country and a neighborhood were different. When we moved in, I asked Jen (my first Asian friend) how to not be perceived as a threat in Chinatown. She told me to be friendly. And I thought that was working. It's not.
Update: Jesse says he gets stared at as well, when he's on his way to work. How rude.