I thought it was my too-slender frame and prominent facial structure that triggered the relentless “What are you?” and “Where are you from?” questions. No, I’m not Ethiopian or Somalian. I’m Virginian. And I’m “just plain black.”
But apparently it’s an epidemic across college campuses with students probing other students’ lineages because surely we’re something a little more than “just black,” especially if we’re at a top-tier university as Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele writes about in a piece for The Root.
According to Eromosele, approximately 40 percent of Ivy League black students had at least one parent born in a foreign land in 2007. And even recent headlines try to underscore a link between elite education and ethnic blackness. “Tiger Mom” author Amy Chua singled out that Nigerian-Americans have a “cultural edge” at succeeding in America. And Kwasi Enin, the 17-year-old New Yorker who was just accepted to all eight Ivy League institutes? He’s Ghanaian-American.
Perhaps that explains why so many black students were quick to represent France or the Caribbean although I’d hate to think they were trying to separate themselves from the rest of us “regular black folk”. And there I was wishing I was from Harlem or LA or Atlanta instead of boring ol’ Virginia.
But to connect education and success with hyphenated nationalities is just absurd. Not to tout my own horn, but my grades were above-average. Never did it cross my mind that perpetual “A”-students earned higher marks because they could claim a second heritage. In fact, any derivative of “What is she?” never crossed my mind – unless I was craving some exotic cuisine. But if a person looked like me – even within a few shades – she was simply black.