I Know I’m Sii Dtam.


She could not stand to look at me. She walked by with her friend and covered her face with her schoolbook. On her way back from the bathroom I used the broken Thai that I knew and told her friend that her friend was being RUDE. They giggled and walked off into the sun. But then I noticed a red band around her right arm. In Thailand the older kids receive a red band because they are considered top of their class and always willing to lend a hand when needed. In other words the students donned with these red bands were respected not only by their peers, but also by their teachers. A bunch of little kids were surrounding my bicycle and me while talking incessantly and expecting me to answer all of their questions. I had no time to feel hurt, but as I rode away on my bicycle I thought to myself how can she disrespect me, but be so respected in the same breath?

I came to Thailand naive about racism. As I walked off the plane all of sudden I became the exotic creature. People were smiling and whispering as I walked by. I presumed it was because I was a farang. It was not until the Yais outstretched there palms to rub my skin. I would make light of I and say “No, it does not come off”. Or the times parents would meet me for the first time and exclaim to their friends that I was indeed from Africa, but with a quick retort they realized I was an American. Or the time my co-worker suggested that my nickname should be Fai which in Thai means cotton. My mind was blown. How was I going to explain slavery and how ironic the nickname I had just been donned was? And even in the marketplace I frequently run in to Africans because they are teaching English downtown. My co-workers exclaim “Oh your friend is here!” or point with their fingers as if I am supposed to jump up and down because I see another person like me.

I was naïve, but now I am stuck in a light skinned painting like a smudge that can’t be removed or covered. This by no means is easy for anyone, any race, any gender. I was naïve, but now I am just trying to blend.



*Editors note: Please check out these outside links to learn more about the POC experience in Thailand:

Minority Nomadthe root    wikiThe New YorkerxojaneYoutube


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