Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Ugly American

One of the great things about Europe is that one doesn't have to put up with the irritating and all but automatic assumption made by white Americans that any black person seen in a store must be a member of the staff. It doesn't matter what one is wearing or how one comports oneself, the assumption still is made, and it quickly gets rather tiresome to have to put up with idiots who can't be bothered to at least look for a uniform or a name tag identifying one as some sort of menial at their service. It's true that Europe is far from being a paradise of racial relations by any means, but it does at least make a pleasant change to be able to shop without always being mistaken for a servant.

Anyway, here I was, fresh from the library, books under my arm, when I decide to make a stop at the local HMV; as I'm browsing the shelves, minding my own business, I suddenly hear an insistent voice saying those words I'd merrily gone so many months without hearing - "Excuse me, do you work here?" Well, what do you know but that the voice behind the question should have been as American as the day is long; it was all I could do to leave the premises without tearing the buffoon a new orifice. As I left, I couldn't help asking myself, what is it with so many Americans and their assumption that the peculiar racial relations of their own nation must carry over to the rest of the world? The prejudice seems to be that blacks everywhere around the world are born to be at their beck and call or something, and for all the numerous times that I've encountered some fool saying "Do you work here?", it is a fact that not once has that individual been an Asian or a European, and this despite the fact that black faces are an everyday sight on the streets of London and many other European cities.