“A (Black) American in Paris”

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Well, it happened once again. I find myself traveling internationally and while sitting on the Metro an older White man and his wife begin smiling at me. I nod in acknowledgement and politeness back and shortly after he points to my backpack. “Are you actually from that university?” “Yes,” I respond and he quickly tells me that their son was a graduate of the school. From there on he (and she to a lesser extent) keeps trying to engage me in conversation. However, I can’t help but notice that in a metro car filled with Black passengers, it is my American-ness that stands out. Perhaps the backpack was a dead giveaway but there were probably other cues–the shoes, the luggage, and the fluency in English signal my national identity. The scores of Francophone Africans remain invisible to this couple. Something about me says, “worthy,” “civilized,” “American,” in the same ways…

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