I'm educated, not white.
I grew up in Santa Barbara,CA, which if you haven't been there it's a beautiful beach town in central California, that is predominately white. Now I say this to note that although I grew up in a predominately white town, my parents did everything they could to make sure my sister and I knew where we came from, our history and that we were proud to be black. I've never known anything different. I've never once questioned my identity or felt ashamed of it. Before anything else, I have always been black. Now granted, my pro-black stances have grown vastly over the years. My stance on social justice and understanding of the world has progressed as has my understanding of systemic racism and white privilege.
You see, when you grow up around a community that doesn't look like you, you think that they accept you simply because you're there. You do all the right things, you say all the right things and people call you their friend. But it wasn't until I was much older that I realized just how much racism I actually experienced growing up in that little town, by people I viewed as my friends. And I how much to this day it still affects me.
We tend to think kids are harmless, but I can recall some pretty mean kids. Jokes about my skin color, my body shape, my hair, you name it. There were a number of things said to me throughout my youth to make me remember that I was different than everyone around me. To make me remember I was black. And not in the way my parents wanted me to remember, but in a way that was meant to make me feel less than. On the flip side I was often praised in a way by my peers that they viewed as a compliment but as I grew older I realized just how hurtful it was. The compliment? Well it was that I sounded white, and I wasn't really black. Or my favorite" You're the whitest black girl I have ever met". This was all because I spoke in full sentences, was educated and presented myself in a certain way. Apparently black people were only capable of speaking ghetto and the fact that I didn't fit into that mold, it made me "not like them". This wasn't a compliment. This was hurtful. This was demeaning. And it was ignorant.
To say this was to insinuate that education was synonymous with only one race. To say this was to say that black people were incapable of being educated on their own accord. To say this was to put all black people in a box. To say this showed that those white people truly had no black people in their life because they thought we all were supposed to act and sound a certain way. To say this, was to say that they felt comfortable around me, because I didn't fit the assumptions they had about black people....and that is simply put, racist. A person's identity is not based on what you perceive it to be. In my experience, many white people have only ever seen negative images of black people, on the news perhaps, and have never actually taken the time to surround themselves with people that are not like them. And that is essentially the problem. When you isolate yourself from other cultures and races your world view will be completely skewed. When you choose to only believe what a news channel tells you, your perception will be off and most likely wrong.
But black people don't think you are off the hook either. Many times in my life I have been told by my own people how white I sound, how I'm not really black and of course add being married to a white man to the mix and they have a field day (but that's for another time and another blog). Black people when we do this to each other we also limit what creates our identity as a whole. We limit what we are capable of. We give in to stereotypes and allow those who created them to win. We as a people have so many dimensions, and we need to be proud of that.
I'm black. Like.... from the motherland black. But I also am vegan and I love Gavin DeGraw. I'm educated and I know how to swim. These things don't make me any less black. It simply makes me a black person that attributes those things to my identity. In my life, I have had to forgive micro-aggressions, blatant and subtle racism, judgments on how I dress, walk, talk and the shape of my body. But instead of always needing to forgive people, I'd just like to see them change.