Black People and Tattoos


Last Saturday, I was in the car with my Rwandan twin Anastase, and his son, my unofficially adopted nephew Cadeaux.

Out of nowhere, Anastase blurted out, “Black people shouldn’t have tattoos.” Cadeaux rolled his eyes at Dad, which he frequently does. (Dad and I spend a lot of time debating Cadeaux’s future, in the lad’s presence. The lad has that eye roll down pat).

Amare Stoudemire

At this statement, I looked at Anastase cross-eyed. At first I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this. I figured I was going to have to respond. I finally managed to say, “That’s an interesting statement, but why?”

Anastase reacted the way Sherlock Holmes does when Dr. Watson doesn’t get something. “Look at me,” he said trying not to laugh. “How would they look on me? They are green; I am black. How will you see them?”

“OK,” I said, trying not to laugh. “I get it, but what brought this up now, oh great Rwandan philosopher?” Anastase likes to be philosophical, with his favorite, being “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” I can imagine PETA supporters putting up wanted posters for him.

He had seen an African-American with a tattoo, this is what started all this.

He continued, “I mean, they are green, you cannot see them, what’s the point?

I wanted to say, Kermit the Frog in the Muppets is Green, but I held my tongue.

On a personal level, I would not have a tattoo. Growing up, Mom told me, I had a choice. If I had a tattoo, and she had to arrange for a funeral, (In theory, Jews are not supposed to have tattoos), I would be airmailed off the Brooklyn Bridge with weights. Or I could have her cut the tattoo off, with a kitchen knife.

Not much of a choice. I think I’ll pass. Also, look at it this way. Do you want to end up like the Norman Rockwell painting of the sailor getting the tattooed names of his ex-girlfriends getting crossed off? Also, you age, your body changes, etc.

I posted on my Facebook page I was writing this essay. My friends were very helpful. One suggested white tattoos. Ironically, Anastase was talking about reading Tom Sawyer in his high school English class. Oh great, all I could think of was the whitewashed fence. Or the John Belushi movie 1941, with the two guys in the tank, the white guy getting tar on him, the black guy white paint. Oh great, some entrepreneur is going to create whitewash tattoos for black people. Sell in the Americans, Africa, and New Guinea…

Another suggested glow in the dark tattoos. The mind boggles. Anastase, my brother. What hath you wrought?

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Angie's Diary