I struggle with my racial identity on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, I’m of African descent. Not so obviously, I’m African-American. Even less obviously, I’m probably one of the “whitest” Black people you’ll ever meet. I’m no Tiger Woods (I neither schtup mediocre cocktail waitresses/porn stars nor do I deny my race on account of not wanting to be pigeon-holed), but I probably have more in common with the average pseudo-hipster White person than I do with the average Black person.
Out of the 132 concepts, ideas and things listed on the website “Stuff White People Like“, I am decidedly “in like” with 94 of them. On average, I listen to more indie and alternative rock than I do hip-hop, rap, or R&B. I have a fancy-schmancy liberal arts degree from an Ivy League school in a major that is so decidedly humanistic that I can’t really explain how it’s even relatively useful in the real world. I drink organic tea, enjoy hiking and swimming, and I ski. Those last three activities alone might as well act as bleaching cream on my skin. On the whole, most Black females do not engage in any activity that involves nature, sweating, copious amounts of water that could potentially dampen the hair, or snow.
Certainly, not all Black people are the same. I’m not asserting that here, so please don’t jump down my throat about enforcing stereotypes or being self-hating. I love “my people” of the African diaspora and it is by the labor of my family, the Black community, that I am even able to write this post. It’s just that, on the whole, in my experience, those in the Black community are so careful to present a united front to the world that we sometimes forget that we’re not a monolith of melanin-enhanced people with a common past. It’s okay for us to differ in interests and to go after different things in life.
I often feel out of touch with my culture because I have differing tastes. I hide my NY Times bestseller novels, I create special “family-friendly” playlists that are mostly R&B and I avoid speaking in the other two languages I know in order to avoid being called “bougie” (shorthand for “bourgeois”) or “uppity”. I deny my obvious relief when I see a White person in a decidedly “ethnic” neighborhood (I’m sorry, but in the hood areas I frequent to get to my school, a White person means that the cops are likely to come if I need them instead of being like, “Well, we’re there all the damn time. We’ll get there when we get there.” It’s sheer self-preservation). I also code-switch like a motherfucker.
However, despite my feelings of exclusion from the Black community, there are certain instances that will remind me that despite my love for organic stores, farmer’s markets, Ray-Ban wayfarers, indie films, and hipster clothing, I am, as the 2010 Census declares me to be, a Negro.
Here’s five instances in which I am painfully reminded that I am Black:
1. Filling out the 2010 Census – I’m normally pretty good about filling out paperwork and sending it in if I think it will actually benefit me. The census would normally fall under that jurisdiction. But having to refer to myself as a Negro chafed my melanin-enhanced sensibilities. I may jokingly or ironically refer to myself or others of my race as a “Negro”, but I was NOT pleased to have to fill it out on an official government form. What next? Am I colored? A darkie? Or do I have to take the paper bag test to determine if I’m a house slave or a field darkie? If I see the word “nigger” anywhere on a government form, you might as well read me my Miranda rights because buildings will burn in this bitch.
2. GoAT Rap Lists – This is something I discovered today. I will resort to the foulest language in the English language and become vociferously stereotypical of an Angry Black Woman when confronted with arguments determining the Greatest of All Time (GoAT) rappers. I will damn near shave my laptop into a shank to defend my favorite rappers and I will curse out anyone who dares to disagree with me.
(I still don’t give a fuck what you think, any list not having Tupac in the top 5 is not a real list and you can kiss my Black ass if you think otherwise. Fuck you, Jay-Z lovers. He’s overrated and doesn’t deserve the #1 spot. Yeah, I said it. Fuck you, you, you, and especially you.)
3. Any news story in which the perpetrator of a crime is Black – If you’re Black, you know what I’m talking about. Every time a heinous news headline depicting some horribly violent or disgustingly stupid crime comes up, I pray to God over and over again “Please don’t be Black, please don’t be Black, aw shit, he’s Black. Damn.” It’s even worse when it’s obvious that the alleged criminal is guilty (currently side-eyeing OJ Simpson…we all know he did it). Why is this any of my concern? Because although not all people of any given race are the same, the White majority usually takes one act of criminality and holds it against all others of the same race. For reference, see, well, all of history.
4. Being pulled over by Being asked questions by Interacting with police officers – Despite being, by my own accounts, “one of the Whitest Black people you’ll ever meet”, I have been racially profiled, falsely accused of a felony, had a warrant out for my arrest, and been unnecessarily harassed/threatened by the police. All on separate occasions. Within the last 5 years. How many crimes have I actually committed? Unless you count forgetting to pay a ticket? None. How many times have I been the only Black person involved? All of the times. How many times have I been Black? All of my life. So, I try not to borrow trouble and avoid interacting with officers of the law as much as humanly possible. My fence-jumping and sprinting skills are on point, despite my complete and utter lack of athleticism. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug.
5. Being referred to as “the Whitest Black girl I’ve ever met” by my White friends – Okay, I know that I say that I’m fairly ethnically challenged when it comes to exhibiting the “usual markers” of being Black other than the color of my skin, but I really hate it when my White friends point it out like it’s such a compliment. Thanks for letting me know that I don’t fit in with the people who raised me and look like me. Thanks for making me feel like a sellout. Telling me that I’m “not Black” doesn’t make me feel like I fit in with you, because obviously I’m still Black. It just makes me feel like double the outsider.
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