Your Geography teacher Mrs. Schmidtbaum had it wrong. Haiti is not located in the Caribbean basin in the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s by Iraq. Or so says a co-worker of a friend of mine who is Haitian. The co-worker’s daughter also is a schoolmate with my friend’s daugher and as a favor she often watches her as the co-worker sometimes stays at work late. Even though as a result of this arrangement a greater level of familiarity and friendliness has occured, the co-worker, who we have facetiously started referring to as my friend’s BFF, has unknowingly elevated my friend (we’ll call her Emma ;-) ) to “token” status. Based on her ridiculous questions and statements, she clearly has had very little interaction with black people, let alone a black person with a heritage that includes a location outside of the United States. She’s been amusing us with her blatant and somewhat condescending ignorance for the past few weeks.
Example #1. BFF asks Emma what she knows about Coach bags because she has several black students who come to class in their pajamas and could be living out of their car but they have coach purses. Because they have Coach purses, she feels she needs to have one as well. BFF tells Emma that she told her mother that she was going to get a new Coach bag because all her students had one. BFF’s mother’s response: You’re going to buy a Coach bag? Isn’t that something black people do?
Example#2: A day or two after the first earthquake hit Haiti, BFF asks Emma if she still has family there and if she’s heard from them. Then she asks “So….where is Haiti. Are they in a different timezone ?” BFF says, “they’re in the same timezone. Haiti is only 2 hours from Florida.” BFF-”Oh, but I mean isn’t Haiti over there by Iraq?” Emma-”BFF……Haiti is 2 hours from Florida in the Caribbean. They are in the same time zone!”. BFF-”Oh. I never was good at *Geology.”*(Just in case you overlooked that, Geology is the study of rocks). Also, just for fun, we now refer to Emma as Haitian-Iraqian. Or as her husband put it, a Hai-raqian.
Example#3: Last week at work BFF insists on taking Emma to lunch (in my opinion with the intention of asking more stupid questions to her new black bff) when she asked if Emma and her family were immigrants. Emma, holding back the urge to curse her out, told her that she and her family are American citizens. BFF-”Oh. When I was stationed in Cuba back in 1994 there was a big thing about some Haitians escaping from Haiti who were caught and sent to Cuba. Was your family on any of those rafts?” Emma-”What?!” *Emma is now Haitian-Iraqi-Cuban, or Hai-raq-cuban and Fidell Castro is her uncle.