I feel as if we are in a fishbowl. To say that we stand out is an understatement. My son is one of only a handful of people with brown skin I have seen in almost three weeks in Greece and I am white. Yes, I did know we would stand out when we went traveling but I didn’t realize just how people would respond and how it would feel to me. There are so many stares and since we were harassed (that’s for another post) I wonder in a different way what is behind those looks. Are they just curious or are they judging us? Is that hatred I see behind those eyes?
Then there are the questions, the never ending, very personal questions about the obvious; as if my son does not have ears, as if he welcomes inquiries into his personal story. Sometimes it’s just “Is he adopted?” Then there was this exchange, after I was already done with it all: “Is that your grandson?” “No, he’s my son.” “He’s not your grandson?” “No.” “Then his father is black.” “No.” “His father is not black?” “No.” “Then he’s adopt..” I change the subject thinking enough already. Can you not either mind your own business or just skip to the obvious and keep your questions to yourself?
I had read that the Greek people love children and I’ve definitely found that to be true. He’s been given treats in stores and on the train. Everyone smiles at him. If only they’d stop touching his head. I knew it was a thing, at least in the US, for white people to forget or purposely ignore personal boundaries, feeling they have the right to reach out and touch the hair of a black person. It happens to adult friends and acquaintances I know who are black as well as their children. It happened quite a bit to Junior when we were in Portugal and I thought I was ready for it again. I tried to prepare myself, to be ready to speak up for him, to defend him. I haven’t been able to stop it. He’s learning to duck.
I joked with Junior that I should put a bunch of his coconut oil in his hair (except that I didn’t bring it) or perhaps some black paint so when someone touches his head, their hand gets all goopy. At least 10 people must have touched his head yesterday! He really doesn’t like it. I told him it was a good thing to do when he waved a woman’s arm away after she touched his head. Even if I spoke Greek, it would be hard to ask people not to touch him as it happens so fast and it’s a different person every time. While I’ve read that Greeks hold a special place in their heart for children, these aren’t love pats. People are curious as he looks different than everyone else. But damn. My kid is not here to satisfy anyone’s curiosity.
Maybe that shirt I wanted to have made that says, “Please don’t touch my hair,” could be made in multiple languages. A shirt for black people to wear when traveling, it could be written in English, Greek, French and Spanish. I could have it made in multiple colors, one for each day of the week.