I was elated to finally come across an article over my newsfeed that resonated with me. “Being Weird and Black Doesn’t Mean You’re Interested In Being White.” by Heather Jones. The writer goes on to explain her experiences regarding being teased in her early childhood as well as how much of an outsider she felt amongst her own people. Jones quotes, “It was confusing because in my mind I just wanted to be myself and I wondered why that wasn’t enough.” Regardless, she embraces both individuality and black culture and expresses it with great pride. And I commend her for having the courage to write such a compelling piece.
I recall taking the time to share the link on Facebook before entering my college Chemistry class. I felt relieved, overjoyed upon the realization that nothing was never wrong with me as many people had lead me to believe all those years in school. You see, I can relate to Jones in many ways because I myself identified as one of the weird black girls in my earlier years as well. I was shy, awkward, jammed out to Jesse McCartney and Avril Lavigne, and spoke with a proper California accent. And by the time my family relocated to Alabama, I knew many of the other black kids would identify me as being a different “breed” unlike themselves. An anomaly going against the usual standards. My so called friends couldn’t allow me to be apart of their group until I was fixed. So I felt I had no other option but to conform to the negative stereotypes unless I wished for an unpleasant path from middle school up until graduation. So, I allowed the negative influences to convince me that reinventing my character was the only solution to claim my title as a true black girl.
Let’s just say I didn’t make the “cut”. Peers, in and out of the black community questioned my blackness as if they had the proper authority to revoke my black card. I even had an influx of insults thrown at me. “She’s so weird.” “Are you sure you’re a black girl?” The rumor mill had even latched onto the outrageous belief that my parents and I were rich because we had a nice house and cars. Unbeknownst to them, we were leading our own lives and surviving just the same as they all were.
I never judged or looked down upon anyone. Despite coming from an upper-class background, I had been taught to be accepting of others regardless of race, religion, interests, background, etc… So how could my own black peers mercilessly judge and torment me for being so different? I’d felt as if I failed to be good enough and lost touch with my true self in the process. I, my nearly nonexistent social life, and self-esteem suffered all together. The only redeeming element to hold onto was never getting beat up, although the bullying remained relentless until we moved again. Only at my new schools I finally connected with others who shared common interests.
Despite the criticisms from the past, I refused to punish and categorize other people of my own race all because of my own past experiences. Instead I chose to broaden my horizons upon entering college, where I befriended many other blacks from different backgrounds and rediscovered myself. My closest black friends from college accepted me and understand my appreciation for black culture and individualism. They understand my admiration of Barack Obama for his wisdom and honor, idolization of the late Tupac Shakur for his powerful lyrics, and enjoyment regarding binge watching Power and Shots Fired. But at the same time I can be a fan of The O.C. and The Walking Dead, listen to rock bands like Linkin Park, and enjoy anime and foreign films.
My advice to others who’ve walked in my shoes is this: be proud of who you are. Deflect the ignorant comments and people questioning your blackness and live your life happily. But on the otherhand love and appreciate your black culture and history. We as a community should be coming together rather than pulling apart and alienating our own fellow blacks over petty elements such as differences or interests. Especially in the world where racism continues under Donald Trump’s leadership. Everyone is unique in their own way. And for those who feel targeted by essentialists for not conforming, please continue to covet the qualities that make you feel most comfortable in your own skin. Nothing is wrong with enjoying the best of both worlds.