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Will Take Time To Accra-imatize

, , , , | Learning | May 17, 2019

(I work at a college campus located where there is an extremely low, basically non-existent, population of African-Americans. On the flip side, this college does have quite a few international students from Ghana. A student approaches my desk to ask a question and I am in the process of directing them to my coworker for the best answer.)

Me: “Okay, you will just want to take this form over there–” *pointing* “–to the gentleman in the green shirt and he can take care of this for you.”

Student: *looking around* “Who?”

Me: *once again pointing* “Over to the black gentleman in the green shirt.”

Student: *instantly outraged* “You can’t say that!”

Me: *confused* “Say what?”

Student: “‘Black’ is an offensive term! He is African-American!”

Me: “Uh, well, actually [Coworker] is from Ghana sooo, no. Not African-American…”

Student: “That is racist! You can’t say someone isn’t African-American!”

Me: “Ghanese? Ghanaian? Yeah, I think it is Ghanaian… go talk to the Ghanaian gentleman in the green shirt.”

Student: “I can’t believe you won’t describe his race correctly! I will be complaining!”

(Later, my coworker wanders over after our supervisor comes and speaks to him.)

Coworker: “So, why did a student apologize to me about this entire country and why did the boss ask me if I felt discriminated against?”

Me: “Because I directed a student to ‘the black gentleman in the green shirt.’”

Coworker: “I don’t understand?”

Me: “I described you as black instead of African-American.”

Coworker: “What? But I am not American. What?”

Me: “[Coworker], do you mind if I describe you as black when sending people over who can’t figure out where to go?”

Coworker: “No. I am black; should I not say ‘the white woman’?”

Me: “Well, I offended that student on your behalf because I said black instead of African-American.”

Coworker: “But I am not American!”

Me: “I know. Is it ‘Ghanaian’?”

Coworker: “Yes, I am Ghanaian. I still don’t understand why I am to be called American.”

Me: “I think that the student forgot that you could be black and from a different country.”

Coworker: “That is stupid.” *walks off*

(It was a very awkward conversation.)

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