I recently met a woman who was absolutely baffled when she heard my last name.

“Now your last name is ______? But I thought _______ was an Irish name. My son-in-law  has that same last name.”  

She was really confused.  I could tell she was wondering, “how could a black person possibly have an Irish last name? Maybe it isn’t Irish in other countries.” She paused for an uncomfortable amount of time, then I realized she wasn’t putting the pieces together.

“It is Irish,” I said.

[Crickets chirp]

“It’s my married name,” I say as I point to my children and my ring, “I am married.”

[add laughter and a smile here so she doesn’t feel stupid or think she offended me]

“So where are you from?” She asks because there can’t possibly be any black people that are actually from Minneapolis.

I almost told her that I am from Ethiopia, but I could tell she was really having a hard time with all of this so giving her a hard time would be a bit much.  Black woman, Irish name, two kids, married, in Minnesota?  I think it took some of my family a little while to get it, so I had grace for this perfect stranger.  Smoke was just about to come out of her ears and her head was about to start spinning. Until…

“I’m from Memphis.”

Whew.  Aww, now I get it.  Hearing that I was from the South made it all come together.

Aside from the from the possibility of it being my married name a couple other possibilities ran through my head while she was talking: either I or my spouse could be adopted and there are black Irish. I also could have made up the name just to confuse her.