“Hi, I’m Sean, and you are?”
“Hi, I’m Meredith. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“So, what ethnicity are you?”
This conversation happened last night. Actually, this conversation has happened frequently over the course of the last year. Apparently, there is a suspicion on the part of most strangers, and airport personnel, that I am not American. I am actually told by everyone who asks that their initial impression is “middle eastern.”
Now, as for people that I meet in social situations, the question is fair I suppose. I do have dark hair, dark eyes and pastyfair skin. I’m 5’6″, which taller than the average woman and most people tend to think I am older than I am.
But as for airport staff who ask and then proceede pull me aside to perform a full-body pat down, I do get offended. Because that’s profiling. And profiling is illegal. They hold eye contact, as if to see if I’ll look away first. I don’t. They ask me where I’m headed and why I’m going there. They look at my license for an inordinate amount of time. And for some reason, they always, always, pull me aside.
“Wait, why am I being asked to go through a second search?”
“It’s random ma’am, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Random my butt.
So, if you have met me in person and thought “I wonder where she’s from?” Allow me to clarify. I’m from Texas. But my geneology is heavily influenced by Europe and American Indian. On my mom’s side, I am French and Polish. My grandfather is French, and I definitely go his coloring. My grandmother is Polish (blonde hair, blue eyes, tan skin, etc) and my brother got her coloring. My brother and I have the same smile… that’s about it.
My dad’s dad is German, Scottish, and Cherokee Indian and his mother was of Czech descent. Like I said, heavy European influence. By technicality, I am 1/8 Cherokee Indian which means I probably could have received a nice scholarship for college, but the application process was ridiculous. Sorry Dad.
Here’s the story that initially sparked what seemed to be the general curiosity:
My senior year of college, I was the Vice President of the International Business Council. (I know, I’m super cool.) The professor that sponsored us knew the Jordanian ambassador. Phone calls were made and one lovely morning in October, the IBC went to Washington DC to meet him at the Jordanian Embassy.
He was handsome, incredibly well spoken and articulate, politcally savvy and diplomatic to a “t”. After a question and answer session, his daughters entered the room, and he introduced them.
Now, I need to mention that my roommate at the time was (and still is) Egyptian. As the ambassador’s daughters approached us, they introduced themselves to my roommate and I. They asked where she was from because she obviously looked like them. When she answered “Egypt,” they turned to me and asked “And where are you from? You looked Palestinian.”
It took me a minute to process what they said. I don’t even know if I know where Palestine is… crap.
“No, I’m not,” I answered as formally as possible. “I’m from Texas.” Brilliant Mere.
I suppose it’s saying something if real middle easterner’s think you are one of them; perhaps the impression hold a little truth. But the fact of the matter is that I’m not. Just in case you were wondering.