“I have never seen a black woman as beautiful as you”. A statement meant to be a compliment when it was uttered…and more so, in what is considered to be the most romantic language on earth. After all, he was implying I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, right? The most beautiful black woman. But to me, it was more a statement of surprise than a compliment. It was not as much as the statement itself that provoked a “whaaatt??!” reaction from me (in my head, of course) than the tone in which it was said, and the perverted look that accompanied it. Maybe I was reading a lot more into it than there was but I just could not bring myself to consider it as a compliment.
I rolled my eyes rapidly, mumbled an inaudible “merci” and ignored the ignorance of this middle aged French man, telling myself he had probably not seen any other “black woman” in all his forty something years of life. I mean, that had to be the best explanation. A few days later I found myself thinking that maybe I was NOT reading too much into it at all. Maybe I was right to think that, that statement was a backhanded compliment. And this was because I came across the Facebook status of a friend complaining about a similar statement said to her. I was even more convinced I was right when my aunt came home one evening and recounted an interesting incident.
She had met a man whilst walking back home from the local brasserie. He had stopped her only to tell her the exact same words the forty something year old ignoramus had told me some weeks before. Unlike me, my aunt decided to ask the gentleman what he meant exactly. Even more stunning was the response he had given her. “He had never seen any other black woman with all her features perfectly beautiful like hers were”, he said. You know what happens when you say something like that to the professor that is my aunt? You get a whole lecture and education on Africa and its beautiful black women. The irony in the whole situation was that this man was of Maghreb origin…Tunisian to be precise. He was African!
So I am still wondering to myself what prompts the utterance of this intended compliment. Ignorance? Genuine surprise? Awe, maybe? Or is it just a plot to make a woman blush in hopes of getting her attention…and then some?