I’m sure that title got your attention. It definitely catches me off guard every time I hear “You’re the whitest black person I’ve ever met.” Yes, I’ve heard the phrase uttered from the lips of all races on numerous occasions and it’s extremely disheartening. I understand that it’s not meant to be an insult, but that is precisely the problem. The undertone of that statement is that you don’t “act” like a black person.
In my youth, I often struggled with my identity in terms of race. I was fighting the desire to be my authentic self by succumbing to my peers and society’s stereotypical version of an African-American woman. American culture paints the picture of African-American women being curvy, sassy, loud, combative, bossy, soulful, etc. I couldn’t have been any further from these attributes. I’m super tiny with a boyish figure, laid back, sensitive, polished, and have absolutely no rhythm whatsoever!!!! These stats alone are enough to get my “black card” revoked. However, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing to be gained by generalizing people according to their race because like myself, there will always be an exception to the rule. It is better and far more accurate to judge people by their actions and character. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be “black” enough. Speaking properly, listening to music other than rap or R&B, and having lukewarm feelings about soul food would always ostracize me from people who live and breathe the stereotypical black culture. Growing up in the suburbs did not whitewash me. I take pride in knowing my parents worked hard so their children could have a better life than they did. Wanting to succeed in life and embrace all that it has to offer is not a white trait. It is a universal aspiration that transcends race and should not be shunned but championed.
The whole notion of race will always be a controversial topic. I hope that as we continue to have a genuine dialog about race eventually we will lean more towards understanding each others culture rather than focusing on something that can’t be changed no matter how much you talk about it; the color of your skin. I saw the movie Black or White over the weekend, and Kevin Costner’s character gave a very poignant line in the film that resonated with me. He said something to the effect of , “Of course I see color. It’s the first thing that comes to my attention, but that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is the second thought that comes to my mind after acknowledging that.” The fact that you can properly identify color is not the problem. The assumptions that you make about someone because of their race is the real issue. All white, black, asian, hispanic, and/or mixed people are NOT THE SAME. Do not let one bad experience with one person cause you to alienate an entire group of people.
Just think of all the possible friendships, relationships that you missed out on by drawing snap judgements about people you didn’t take the time to know on a deeper level. We have all done it, but maybe if we all started to be more open-minded we would realize that we aren’t all that different. We all struggle, want to succeed, are afraid to fail because at the end of the day we’re just humans.
In college, my first writing assignment was to interview another classmate and write a paper that compared your initial reaction upon meeting them to how they view themselves. Unfortunately, I got stuck in traffic and was late to class. My professor refused to let me in so after an hour of having a full on meltdown about how college wasn’t for me, my mom was able to calm me down and convinced me to try again tomorrow. I made it to class on time, but since our class had an odd number there was no one for me to partner up with. I was forced to analyze myself and write my paper based on how I believe people perceive me versus how I perceive myself. Some of my peers thought that my assignment was easier. I begged to differ. I had just met these people and now I was forced to be vulnerable right off the bat. I was overwhelmed with anxiety, but my desire to keep the HOPE Scholarship outweighed my reluctancy of revealing my true self to strangers. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to embrace my past and find my voice as a writer.
Am I proud to be an African-American? Heck YES!
I say like, awesome, and OMG all the time and yes I am black. No, it is not an act; it is who I am all day every day.
Do I want it to define me? NO.
Being black is an integral part of my existence, but I will never be reduced by my race because there is so much more of my identity worth exploring. I just hope others give me the opportunity to show it instead of completely writing me off for reasons beyond my control.