I was minding my own business in the candy aisle at the Sam's Club in Mobile when I had a brief encounter with a little old white lady who probably by now wishes she had just kept her mouth shut. While admiring a giant container of Mikes without the Ikes, the lady - whom I already noticed staring from a distance - stands next to me. I can tell she's looking at me, more specifically, my hair. In the "we are" section of the Insane Asylum, there's a picture of me. For the record, my hair didn't look like that at Sam's. It was styled in a mohawk, and that's probably why she felt inclined to say something. 

After looking at my hair from all angles, the little old lady says, "Excuse me, why do you Africans, er, African-Americans wear your hair all roped up like that?"

I didn't address her concern about my hair. I didn't even address the "you people" portion of her question. Instead, I told her that I wasn't an African-American. I then went on about how it's not like I moved to America from Africa, and eventually became a citizen. "In fact", my rant continued, "I was born in Michigan. And not only have I never been to Africa, but I don't desire to go to Africa." She just walked away as fast as her little feet could muster. I looked around for her handler, but I guess she was by herself. 

Man, I was upset for a hot minute. I mean, I'm not African. African was the family I used to live down the hall from who made fish soup EVERY FRIGGIN DAY. They had the hallway and everyone's apartments smelling like poop and feet and the back of a Chinese food restaurant. They came from Africa, and they eventually became citizens.

I laughed to myself after a few minutes. That encounter made me wonder about the way black people are perceived to other cultures and races. Then I remembered this conversation Nena Grace told me she had with an old classmate. See for yourself. 

The girl, who is obviously a white person, thought that because Nena Grace is "African-American", she could advise her on voodoo. Clearly embarrassed, this is the response Nena Grace got: 

Let me just tell you that Nena Grace will not be "getting together" with this person any time soon.

Since both Nena Grace and I encountered similar situations with someone from another race within a month's time, I wonder how often it happens to other people or other races. For example, Nena Grace was thought to have been knowledgeable on the subject of voodoo because she was pre-labeled "African"-American. With that said, have any of you ever been approached about your race's stereotypes? Were you offended? Was I justified in being offended by the little old lady? Should Nena Grace have been offended by her classmate's request?

About the Writer

Ed "Mr. Chap" Chapman is the warden of the Insane Asylum Blog and contributor to