My Blackness Vs Me
By Kirsten F.
“There is nothing prideful about hating yourself, and I unlearned that behavior because my blackness is a part of who I am. “
My relationship with my blackness has been faulty at best, especially when I was younger. Growing up I never really understood the importance of what being black meant, like sure I knew I was different from all the white kids I hung out with. I was just blindly ignorant to it all until someone in my family bought me The American Girl Series about a young slave named Addy Walker. Reading about Addy and her family’s fight for freedom woke something up in me. Visualizing her and her mother running towards a better life, even though their family was split up made me see life differently. Reading about how inhumane people who looked like me were treated made me upset. It made me notice the racist things that came out of the mouths of people who I considered friends. I knew they didn’t know what they were saying because unlike me, their reality was something different. I remember being in the third grade and having a friend of mine tell me that “ White boys don’t like black girls, because black goes with black and white goes with white.” I was crushed, because I had just told them that I had a crush on a blue eyed white boy in our class. That was almost twenty years ago and I still remember how they said it, and how it just flowed off of their tongue so effortlessly.
I think about the the first time I ever got called a “nigger” I was nine and I was at Girl Scout camp of all places. Who would think that I would encounter a racist at camp, I surely didn’t. This girl who was no much bigger than myself would taunt me at times, she pinched me repeatedly in the back of the camp van on our way to The Knoxville Zoo. She stood on my back as I pretended to lay down on the floor of the pool, and when I finally came up for air she acted as if she was just playing a game. Even though I knew she wasn’t and I stayed silent, because I didn’t know how to handle it. I don’t think I ever told anyone about that, and if I did then I don’t remember… Just the incident itself. I think that’s when I started to despise my blackness, I hated myself because I didn’t want to be picked on by my skin color any more.
In fifth grade my mom decided to move me to a different school district, I was leaving the place that I had known my entire life. My new school was completely different to me, because there black skin was the majority. Unfortunately for me that didn’t stop me from being an outcast, just because I was black I was always what our community calls “white-washed”. In other words, I was a black girl with white girl tendencies. I talked “proper”, I dressed “white”, I preferred the Benji Maddens over the Lil Bow Wow’s and I was shunned for that. I was the weird black girl who shopped at hot topic and hung out with the goth kids in middle school. It was a known fact that my label, and how people saw me was “not black enough”. In eighth grade, a group of girls who had it out for my friends called us a bunch of “white bitches”. The irony of it was that two of us were black and one of us was half Mexican. It made me laugh because even though I was black, and so were they I was now considered white. Except I wasn’t white, I didn’t get to benefit from white privilege and I still don’t.
“ White boys don’t like black girls, because black goes with black and white goes with white.”
High school was the same, although there I tried my hardest to fit in with the black folks and became someone that I’m not so proud of. However who I was during those four years, helped me realize that who I really am is perfectly fine. There are NO guidelines to my blackness, nor yours. I am just as black now as I was then, I am a proud member of a friend-family where we all accept one another for who we are. Black, White, and Mixed we make up our own family and will fight anyone who tells us differently. Do I still face racism of course, I’ve been told by people who considered me their friend that I wasn’t black I was just “a super tanned white girl”. I’ve been called an Oreo for the majority of my life and I used to take pride in that fact. Until one day I realized how disgusting that term is, how it is full of self hate and not pride. There is nothing prideful about hating yourself, and I unlearned that behavior because my blackness is a part of who I am. I can’t change that fact, nor do I ever want to. The older I get the more I see and understand this life. I’ve never necessarily fit into either worlds, and I’m alright with that. I remember the first time when I realized that, I was at a house party with some friends, and I was the only black girl there. Which I was used to because growing up in my small town and having the friends that I did… That’s usually how it happened.
At this party I was hanging out and talking to people, being the social butterfly my mama always said that I was. It wasn’t until someone was telling a story about a guy that things got awkward. I don’t remember the exact content of the story, but I do remember the “He’s nothing but a stupid nigger” and the stares that came with it. Every single side eye was directed towards me, and it felt like I was that stupid meme from Spongebob. It felt like I was sucked into a black hole and everyone around me was just looking at me drown. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing… I’m still mad at myself for not saying anything. I was angry, and I was silent. . . Which for me, never went hand in hand. If I was mad you knew about it, but this time I was so silent I could hear my own heart beating. For the first time in my life I was mad at someone for attacking my race, even though it wasn’t directed towards me. That was when I knew I had accepted myself and ALL of my melanin. My relationship with being black had for so long been on the back burner, and at that moment it moved up front.
After that incident I never let people forget that at the end of the day I AM BLACK, and proud of it. You will not get away with calling me Oreo or super tanned white girl, nor will you get away with saying that I am white washed. My blackness can not be defined by anyone other than me and I will not allow you to attempt it. Being black is something that I can’t change, nor do I want to. The relationship I have with being a black woman has changed drastically over the years. I struggled with both worlds, white and black… I am the grey area.
“I’m still mad at myself for not saying anything. I was angry, and I was silent.”
This isn’t a piece about hating myself, my community or hating white people. This is my way of letting myself tell my own truth, this is my personal journey at loving who I am as a black woman. I am a black woman who loves pop punk and black clothes. I am black woman who gets upset every time I turn on the news and another black body is laying dead in the street. I am a black woman who celebrates her blackness, and everything else she is no matter who has a problem with it. I am black, I am a writer, and I am also a lot of other things that unless you personally know me, you don’t need to know about.