America is known as the big melting pot and San Francisco is like a smaller version of America. I learned about the melting pot in my schooling in France, but when I arrived here I felt like it was not true. When I got here I thought, “Whoa, it’s stratification.” There were just different segments of people: black, white, Asian, and everybody seemed to be separated by race.
When I first arrived in San Francisco they asked me to fill out this form and it asked me, “What is your race?” I didn’t know what to put on the paper because I had never been asked that in my life. There were all these different characters to choose, and I thought
to myself, “Which one am I going to pick?” because I’m mixed. I turned around feeling embarrassed and a little stupid because I had to ask the flight attendant. “Excuse me, what should I put here?” She responded, “Of course, black.” “Oh,” I said. “All right.” I thought, “Maybe she didn’t understand my English.” So I ask the lady next to me. “Can I ask you a question? My mom is white and my dad is black so what do I put?” She looked at me and said, “Of course you put black.”
I called my parents and told them I had arrived in the United States and explained what had happened. My dad said “Well it is you in America. Don’t worry.” My mom said, “Did you tell them I’m white?” I said, “They told me to put black so I put black. That’s it.” They already categorized me. I was forced to choose. That was my first experience coming here. It seemed like even my name was less important than my race. I had already been categorized to fit within this system of race. With time I began realizing that there’s social discrimination in this country.
I’ve been to many countries. In my travels, I have learned about so many different systems in the world like democracy, capitalism, communism, anarchism, and so on. But in a village, I really believe in the fundamental value that exists... to love one another and share with one another. It’s an extension of your family.
Ownder of Bissap Baobab