I am currently an assistant professor at a PWI in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It is a job I will leave at the end of the month. There are lots of reasons why but, today I will focus on the serious lack of cultural competency that exists both at my current institution and in the area that surrounds it.

As the only African-American female professor on campus, everyone recognizes me. People I have met (and not) are pleased to call me by a carefully enunciated version of my name; a nod, they think, to their racially diverse sensitivity training. “Aisha. Now, how do you spell that?” I have become fond of calling myself a pioneer.

My popularity extends across the town in which I live. In spite of this, I have created ways to be known and not. I frequent a certain set of shops, let my Bronx girl persona fly: quick, sharp, funny and gone, neither giving nor inviting too much…or so I thought.

One evening, while waiting for a table at a chain restaurant, a local artist and business owner stopped to greet both my partner and I. Expecting a few unremarkable pleasantries, we were surprised instead to hear a question: “Do you know what I love about Black people?” My heart sank. If in no other moment, it became clear that my amused distance wasn’t distant enough.

He paid no attention to our apathetic demeanor and lurched onward into his soliloquy. He told us how much he appreciated Black people’s passion and then provided an example so disconnected from reality that I could only imagine he was an assistant producer from Love and Hip Hop Pennsyltucky. He claimed that from a distance, he just knew we were having a heated debate, one in which my partner was the verbal aggressor. He was so worried about the negative tenor of the conversation he did not hear, that he was hesitant to greet us at all.

Back in the real world, before this interruption, my partner and I were easily lounging in a double rocking chair idly discussing the recent Olympic victory of Gabby Douglass. We were only at this restaurant because cooking seemed too much of a commitment to make on such a hot day. After this particular intrusion we both wished we were home flipping a coin for the last good TV dinner.

Without a moment of actual engagement, this man, who knew us only from our infrequent visits to his shop, mapped onto our bodies an imagined drama in which he was now playing the role of savior.  Thankfully, our name was called and we skedaddled off to our table saying little else to this interloper. I was saved in that moment from having to do the work I get paid to do for free. Instead, I will tell you, free of charge, what I was thinking in that exact moment. I don’t care what you think you love about Black people. Now, let’s see if we can both have dinner in this restaurant without your privilege interfering with my meal.


 


Comments

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02/12/2016 8:30pm

May I just say what a relief to find somebody that really knows what they're talking about on the web. You certainly understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people really need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you are not more popular given that you surely possess the gift.

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02/12/2016 8:31pm

Can I simply just say what a relief to discover an individual who truly knows what they are talking about on the net. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people ought to check this out and understand this side of your story. I was surprised you aren't more popular because you surely have the gift.

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03/23/2016 1:38am

Nice story. You are a good writer.

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04/27/2016 9:29am

I love the style they are talking and an absolute confidence in what they believe

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07/06/2016 2:13am

Stories like these make me sigh. Haven't society still moved on, despite all these centuries that passed? The owner thought his 'soliloquy' made him a friend of black people, but according to you, it proved to be contrary. I think the only way for people to show love towards the other race is that they should treat each them as a normal, ordinary person. People of different race, so as to show a sense of love to them, has to be treated just like they would treat people from their own race.

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Naturally like your web site however you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the reality then again I'll certainly come again again.

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07/28/2016 1:09pm

Do you know what I love about white people?))

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