On Being an 'Exotic Black Girl'

Janday Wilson, writing at xoJane, says she loves her West African features, but she's often perplexed by the way people react to them. 

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Courtesy of Janday Wilson

Janday Wilson, writing at xoJane, says she loves her West African features, but she's often perplexed by the way people react to them.

"Oooh, you're exotic. I'm going to call y'all Godiva!”

That was what a Southern gentleman exclaimed to me and my friend after we told him that our families originated from Liberia and Nigeria, respectively. We had struck up conversation with him and his friends outside of a club and, in exchanging the usual pleasantries and the bits of information you feel comfortable sharing with strangers, he asked us where we were from. I told him Connecticut, she told him New Jersey.

"No, where are you really from?" he countered.

I am always slightly thrown off by these compliments tempered with inquiries into my cultural background, no matter how frequently I get them. I do not know which features give away the fact that my roots are not in America, but the comments that I receive about my appearance often reveal people's thoughtful or ignorant perspectives on Africa and Afrocentric standards of beauty.

An unwanted seatmate on a train spent the entire hour-and-a-half trip calling me beautiful and stressing to me that he always found dark-skinned women attractive, as if he should be praised for this decision. (Skin color in the black community is a whole other issue.) He was so proud to share that he nearly got hit by a bus while staring at a "blue-black African-looking woman" who was crossing the street. The conversation took an even more ridiculous turn when I told him I was Liberian.

"Do you speak African?" He then proceeded to spit out a bunch of guttural clucks, and I was this close to smacking him in the face ...

Read Janday Wilson's entire piece at xoJane.

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