Ironically enough, my last post was talking all about how I embrace my blackness and how beautiful it is. But in this post, I want to talk about how I’ve always been told I’m not black enough.
My entire life I have been told that I don’t act like a normal black person. My friends always made jokes that I didn’t understand what it meant to be black because there was a blonde-hair, blue-eyed girl trapped in my body. Anytime I would do or say something that contradicted how they believed black people should behave, they would ask me if I really believed that I was white. From a very young age, I was told that I was uppity and felt like I was better than everyone else. But it never seemed that way to me. I went to a Montessori school so I learned the importance of diction and annunciation in speech. As a child, I was always told how beautiful and important I was so I had a great sense of self-worth. I was raised to value education and always putting forth your best effort in all that you do, so I always took school serious.
I have always been a girly girl so I love to dress up and wear pink. I’ve never been an aggressive type of person. I try to avoid confrontation as much as possible and I do things to make other people happy. To this day, I still do not see how any of these things that others pointed out about me had a connection to whether or not I was black. Those are all things that every little girl should be taught.
At first, especially as a child, it really hurt my feelings to feel disowned by my own race. I always felt like I was a huge exception to them that couldn’t be figured out. I was around lots of white children growing up. I went to school with them, went to dance class with them; two of my best friends were even white! Now I wonder if they ever wondered why I never acted like the other ten black kids at our school. But, as crazy as it sounds, I never realized I was different until it was pointed out to me by the black students at my school. Even in middle and high school, I usually was one of maybe two or three black students in each of my AP and Honors classes. It was funny because often, I had to represent the entire Black community in my AP and Honors classes.
So this brings me back to my fundamental question of what does it mean to be black? And why do we associate race as a determining factor of how a person should act? Just because I am Black does not mean that I don’t take pride in my appearance, can not speak articulately, and cannot choose to listen to genres other than the ones birthed from the Hip-Hop movement. The color of a person’s skin has no direct effect on what kind of person they are. So we, as a society, need to stop labeling a person and their characteristics based on how they identify themselves racially. I had to represent the Black community when certain topics came up. I have one distinct memory of a conversation I had with my 11th grade AP English teacher who was also my African-American Studies teacher. She had the opportunity to see me in two different settings that I was forced to be comfortable in my entire life; a majority white setting and a majority black setting. She told me that I had mastered the art
of “chameleon-ism”; being able to camouflage and fit in within both cultures. When it was time for me to put on my “black face” and be in the midst of the students in the African-American to fight for social justice, I could do that just as well as being the black girl who was a positive representation and example that Black people can be intelligent and successful. I never knew whether or not the comment she made was a good or a bad thing or whether it was just a fact of life; survival of the fittest- so to say. However, neither came at ease because, for both, it meant that I had to act like something other than the me I was comfortable with being. In my AP class, I had the fear of being “too black” and give the Whites the chance to doubt or not take me as serious. It was okay to be black as long as I didn’t act black. But I also couldn’t be too white and make the students in my African-American Studies class think I was better than they were.
Now as I’m growing into adulthood, I have realized that I don’t need to conform my characteristics to what others feel are related to my Blackness. All I need to focus on is doing and being my best at everything I do. Whether you think my best is me being Black or not, has nothing to do with me.