Exotic = You Don't Belong

I've been avoiding Trayvon Martin related news, blogs and Facebook posts. The story breaks my heart wide open. Letting in other people's pain is almost more than I can take. Today, I thought five days of silence was enough. That I could handle a little input. That it might help me grow.

Instead, I'm crushed. Laid flat. Scared.

I know that it is unlikely that I will be followed and shot dead for looking threatening in America. I'm too old, too thin, too female and too racially ambiguous.

However, I have been turned into an outsider. And, when you're an outsider, you don't belong. And people who don't belong - from illegal aliens to Trayvon - don't get the same protections as the people who are inside, determining who is in and who gets left out.

This scab was picked today as I read a post from Questlove. His quick thought on being exotic rings true: "All the time I'm in scenarios in which primitive, exotic-looking me (6'2", 300 pounds, uncivilized afro for starters) finds himself in places that people that look like me aren't normally found. I mean, what can I do? I have to be somewhere on Earth, correct?

We all have to be somewhere on Earth. We all deserve to be where ever we want to be on this Earth. I believe that Quest is putting his tongue squarely in his cheek when he describes himself as exotic. I hope that anyone who reads that sees that too. I mean, what's so exotic about 6'2"? My White brother is that tall and, trust me, he has never been called exotic. 300 pounds exotic? In our ever-fattening nation, that's become almost average. That leaves the uncivilized afro. If you agree that Quest is exotic looking, but are willing to agree that his height and weight aren't all that remarkable, than you are agreeing that Black hair that refuses to meet a certain standard of length and shape is bizarre, outlier, worth investigating, doesn't belong.

Questlove is a famous "exotic," so he gets recognized and people want his rare star to be closer to them. He gets pulled off the shelf where we stash papayas and pygmies and brought behind the velvet rope.

Trayvon Martin was too exotic for George Zimmerman's world. He didn't belong. He needed to be watched, followed, confronted, killed. He couldn't be "somewhere on Earth" as far as George was concerned.

If you're an insider (in America, this means White but, insub groups it can mean "looking like everyone else in this community," be they White, Black or Latino), how willing are you to try being an outside for an hour? A day? A lifetime? Can you handle feeling, at best, like you don't belong and at worst, despised and feared and in danger?

Still unsure if this story applies to you? Try this: go to a predominantly Black neighborhood and walk down the street in broad daylight. Feeling comfy? Ok, good. Now, pick a moderately crowded hair salon or barber (I say moderately crowded because it's a sign of skills but you won't have to wait ALL day). Go in and ask for a hair cut. If you can stick it out, you will leave with a sharp hairdo and a strong sense of what it is like to be the only person in the room who looks like you.

Maybe you'll get stared at. Don't worry, a hard look hasn't killed any of us so far. Maybe you'll be laughed at. Get over it and get your cut. Pay attention. Are you afraid? Does the sound of the razor or scissor near your ear send you off on a nightmare fantasy of having your throat slit. Are you lonely? Do you watch the door, hoping another person who looks like you, even if it's Joe Serial Killer, will come in the door? Savor this rare moment and don't worry. It isn't hard to find "your place" again in America. It just might feel a little different when you get back there.

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