[1. love yourz (happy black history month)]
“So your mom is white?”
“Your dad then?”
“Wait, so are you adopted? You’re not full black.”
“No. I’m not adopted. Both my parents are black.”
“So why do you sound like that? Why do you dress like that?”
It was a weekday afternoon and I was on the school bus headed home. I think it was the Buckingham bus; I can’t remember. After the invasive line of questioning, I just looked down at my walnut-colored loafers and waited until the bus got to my stop. It wouldn’t be the first time I encountered that line of questioning. Somehow I wasn’t really black because my skin was light and I “sounded like a white girl” when I talked.
I grew up just outside of Baltimore and as a child I was blissfully unaware of my physical differences until they were pointed out to me. During the particular exchange on the school bus, I was confused as to why anyone would even question if I was “full black.” What did that even mean? That feeling of not being “full black” was something that I carried with me for many years. I often found myself questioning my blackness because of how I sounded when I talked, or because of the things that I enjoyed. I felt as though I spent much of my childhood and adolescence unaware that there was not a “universal black experience.”
Fast forward some 20 years later from that day on the Buckingham bus, and I can’t help but feel hyper aware of my Blackness. I watch shows like “Blackish,” and although I didn’t have an affluent upbringing I see my childhood in many of the stories. When Junior’s family throws him a “Bro Mitzvah” I think fondly of the Bar and Bat Mitvah’s I attended while at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School. I too wanted to have a Bat Mitvah. A fabuous party on a boat, or at a swim club, or in the ballroom of a beautiful hotel. I wanted to celebrate my entry into the teenage years with food, family and friends.
It may have taken me 20 years, but I know now that there isn’t a “universal black experience.” As the BuzzFeed video “I’m Black, But I’m Not” put quite eloquently, “My blackness is not the same as someone else’s.”
My name is Catherine Louise Hooper. I’m Black and I’m:
- A lover of classical music. In fact I am a classically trained musician
- Not the best dancer; but love to dance
- A lover of wine, good books, kale salads and fried chicken