When you think of what an “American” looks like, what do you see?
The diversity I see as America is still not what most of the world sees. If you ask most people around the world, they would say an American is blond and blue-eyed.
How do I know?
I chose a job as an international teacher and am a White woman married to an African-American US Diplomat. For the past 8 years, we have been traveling around the world with our biracial daughter. We watched the shocked faces as we introduced ourselves upon arrival at each new post.
As we moved to 5 countries and traveled to 26 more together for work or holidays, these are the typical questions I got:
“But where is your husband REALLY from?”
“What country did you adopt your daughter from?”
Some of the questions from strangers we got were harmless and even funny. For example, in basketball-loving countries, my husband was always being asked if he knew Michael Jordan. Since he is a HUGE Michael Jordan fan, he would smile and say no.
But others were downright hateful and still cause pain each time I remember them. Once I was asked: “Did a black man rape you?”
We spent SO MUCH TIME trying to convince people that: 1) we are married; 2) we are American; 3) we had a biological child together.
My husband was never surprised by these racist dynamics.
But I found them incredible (and infuriating).
Sure, I expected we’d encounter racial prejudice and that it would even be worse in some countries. But I held some hope that the international communities in which we’d live would be different. I thought people who choose to live abroad, knowing they could be placed anywhere, would be welcoming of racial, ethnic and cultural differences. But I was wrong.
Here’s what I learned instead.