Why I Stopped Proving My Blackness To Others

April 13, 2017

Growing up, I was teased because I don’t speak or act ‘traditionally Black’.

Like everyone has their ideas about Blackness in their heads, Black people included, and I never fit them.

Even though my experiences are Black, I continue to hear (from friends, strangers, people who don’t even like me but have commentary): “You aren’t really black.”

And while it used to bother me, it doesn’t anymore. I understand that it has nothing to do with who I am. I may have nuances that allow me to defy common stereotypes about Blackness, but that doesn’t mean I need to eat more greens or rewatch Coming to America. I don’t feel apologetic anymore.

I guess it’s hard for people to acknowledge that Blackness comes in many shapes and forms, that it is a layered experience. When people claim to dislike Black people, they reassure me, “Well, I don’t mean you.”

They think that they aren’t offending me because they’re talking about a stereotype, but they still do. My perceived proximity to Whiteness, or my distance from Black stereotypes, really just reflects that those stereotypes are bullshit. It reflects a level of ignorance in our understanding of who Black people really are. It’s an ignorance I literally had to grow up around, that’s perpetuated by members of every race.

It also completely erases an identity I’m proud of and it doesn’t magically bestow me with The White Experience.

I’m not white. Not even a little bit. I am ashamed for all of the times I accepted other people telling me I didn’t count as Black simply because of the way I talk or movies I neglected to see. I remember wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Black Is Beautiful’ and being told I didn’t deserve to wear it. And it’s like, how can a person not deserve to be proud of their own race?

I don’t want to be proud of my perceived distance from Blackness. I’m genuinely proud of who I am and how I look. Plus, it’s highkey racist when people accuse me of being white because it usually comes when I’m reading, writing, coding, or speaking eloquently. Saying that things like tech knowledge or reading comprehension are part of the white experience furthers this idea that to be Black is to be unintelligent or ignorant — and that just isn’t true.

So I apologize if you were raised to believe stereotypes over reality, I’m glad my existence shatters perspectives. But don’t ever call me white.

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