“You Look Tropical.”

And other unfortunate, orientalist, and lowkey anti-Black pick-up lines from sad cis boys in Providence.

This weekend, I went out with one of my girlfriends in downtown Providence. And because it’s Providence, we inevitably ran into people we knew, some friends of one of her friends. As we were standing outside a bar chatting, one of them looked me up and down (super subtle) and asked, “What are you?”

Oh, if only I had a dime for every time I get that question. As it were, the only people who don’t ask me that are other Natives. Other folks tends to read me as far more racially ambiguous than I persynally think I am—and it’s always tiresome. Tiresome in that it’s always the same script: “What are you?”, followed by a string of incorrect guesses, from Dominican to Cape Verdean to Brazilian, followed by me saying, “Indigenous and Black,” followed by any number of problematic responses (and yes, I have heard ALL of these several times):

“Like, Indian? Like, Pocahontas?”

“Oh, you look it.”

“Not mulatto?”

“Really? You look Dominican.”

“That’s so cool!”

“You sure? You look tropical.”

“Can you trace your tribe back?” (nigga—back to what?)

“So, do you get casino money?”

“Did you go to college for free?”

“Are you sure you’re not Dominican?”

Or, my persynal favorite:

“What’s Indigenous?”

I’m sure this mutual friend didn’t think his inquiry burdensome or anti-Black, but it was both, and in spades. He told me that he’s Dominican, and for the rest of the night, he continued to make his case as to why I am actually Dominican but don’t know it: from my hoop earrings (beaded by a Narragansett relative, but OK?) and Saint Augustine necklace (because apparently nobody else in the world is Catholic) to my choice of drinking Hennessy (he’s clearly never been to a Black cookout) to the fact that I talk with my hands so much (???). I still had a great time with my friend, and while the questions and insisting were annoying, what bothered me was that this dude was trying to hit on me. Never once in these situations do the men in question stop to ask themselves what they’re doing, or why. Really: why would I want to date someone who started giving me the third degree thirty seconds into meeting? Someone who decided I am actually neither Black or Indian enough in his estimate, and must actually be from an island country I have never been to?

It’s not flattering when guys ask me “what I am” as a sort of half-assed pick-up line. I’m a human being, and one who doesn’t have a lot of patience for the colonial gaze, even if it’s lateral. I actually don’t give a fuck what you think I look like, or that you’ve never met a “real Native American” before, or that you’re projecting your anti-Blackness onto me while trying to get my number. It’s lame.

I’m not tropical; I’m Black. I’m Native. And I’m annoyed.

If any dude actually touched my hair, I’d definitely have to punch him in the throat.

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