African American Family Question

I started tutoring a boy at his home. The family is very nice, and thier modest home is beautiful and tastefully decorated. However, I can’t figure some things out!

The mother is Black with slightly slanted eyes, a small pony tail, and an accent I can’t identify. (Could she be Polynisian? Malaysian? Oriental?) The father is Black with no accent. He’s definitely born and raised in the USA, but…

The house decor is mostly of Oriental taste with bits of African art mixed in. Even stranger to me, the family seems to have a servant! This person didn’t answer the door like a butler. However, when the mother asked if I’d like a drink, this “servant” brought it to me without being asked and without interacting with me verbally. The servant was a female dressed in what I’d call (almost) traditional Moslem garb. She appeared to be wearing a white skull cap (not a turbin) and wearing a white body wrap partially covering her head on down. It did not cover her face…as you might picture some traditional female Moslems. (If she was a sister, she must be the rebellious one.)

Does any SDoper have a clue about any of this? What might be the mother’s background? And, would they actually have a servant? Very confusing…

  • Jinx

Would it feel completely inappropriate to ask either the boy or his mother where she is from?

I would feel funny asking right now…perhaps if I get to know them a little better, I’ll be able to find out more about them…and who the mysterious person is. - Jinx

Not all Muslim women cover their faces. Within the home the rules are different anyway.

As for where the mother is from, we could make a lot of guesses, but unless you ask you’ll never be able to tell. You could say that she has a beautiful accent and ask where she acquired it. And people have been known to decorate their homes with art objects that don’t necessarily indicate their country of origin.

Is it possible that the “servant” was the daughter of the household? If so, serving a guest might be part of her duties as a female family member. Muslim society has some pretty specific rules of hospitality, I believe.


I’d second just asking. Foreigners are used to it, and as long as you don’t sound like too much of a yokel (“You sure talk funny! Where you from?”) they generally don’t mind.

It’s entirely possible that they are not African-American or African at all, but dark-skinned Sri Lankans or something like that.

Um, or she could be black but from somewhere else. This sounds like my house. Father is black, born and raised in the U.S., mother is black but born and raised elsewhere. Just b/c she has an accent and a somewhat Oriental decor doesn’t mean she isn’t black. You should just ask.