Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

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Since my arrival in the U.K., I must say that I have received a lot of unsolicited attention. Although there are many factors that could contribute to the attention, I believe that the primary factor is my accent. I  have never lived in a place where my origin, accent or ethnicity seemed almost prized. I’m different here. I stand out. I asked some random people if I stood out just because I was an American. They replied, “No, you stand out because you’re African American. We always have American’s come, but it’s less often that we have a black American come.” How true that is,  I don’t know so I will focus on my American accent.

For example, I can be sitting down, talking to my classmates and someone who I don’t know will approach my table and start a conversation. I can be  riding the bus, talking on the phone and someone will strike a conversation with me.   The first question usually is, “Are you from America?” I assume that my American accent is a dead giveaway that I am foreigner and people seem to be intrigued by that. They desire to know where I am from in America and then they usually proceed to tell me where they have visited in the U.S. or how much they desire to visit the U.S.  After the small talk is finished, like clockwork,  a barrage of questions/statements based on stereotypes seem to be directed at me as I become the voice of America.  Some of the sterotypes are good, others, well, let’s just say they are not so good.

Here are a few:

I know you’re American because your teeth as so pretty. All American’s teeth are pretty.

America is so strong. You guys are inpenetrable.

How do you feel about the controversy surrounding the 9/11 Memorial?

How does it feel to have Barack Obama as a president?

What’s it like in America?

Are there any ghetto’s in America?

Are people really country in America?

Some of these questions are asked because I am American, but I know that other questions derive because I’m African American.For example,

Do you still have the KKK?

Is racism really that bad in the South?

When they ask me questions,   I don’t mind. I answer their questions honestly and as politely as I can, but sometimes the questions that I get seems a little far-fetched and ignorant.

For example, several times I have heard people say, “Everything I learned about America, I learned from watching Maury, Jerry Springer and South Park.”

Cringe. Wow. What a horrible representation of America! So you think we all curse and fight and sleep around, etc. ? 

This leads me to my main point: We, as a country, need to be more critical of not only the media we consume in house, but also the media that we project to other countries. It’s sad, that for those who may never sit and have a conversation with an American, how they may view us.

I’m only one person. I cannot dispel every negative stereotype of Americans or African Americans, for that matter. I can only represent myself, my beliefs, and give my opinion on the questions they ask; however, as a country we can help portray a better image so that  some of these stereotypes can be dispelled before they ever ask, “Are you American?”

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