Identity Crisis: My struggle with embracing my blackness and rejecting antiblackness
As a young girl, I didn’t understand race and intersectionality. I never knew what it truly meant to be a black woman in America. I had no identity issues because I was just *me*. My identity and views toward life started changing once I entered school.
My parents were extremely strict and well off. They went to ivy league schools, had very high paying jobs and worked with prestigious companies. They pushed reading, proper english, and no ghetto behavior/mentality. Ghetto was not something to be proud of; we didn’t act like *them*, we were better than that.
When I started school, my parents drilled hard work and getting ahead, just as they had done. This meant that my parents wanted me to have the best: best schools, best teachers, and best classrooms. Best schools, classrooms, and teachers meant that I was mostly around white children. In school, I was barely around many black children unless there were one or two in my class. Being in a predominately white private school made me start picking up their habits and, in some cases, starting to see myself as equal to them even though I clearly was not. By me being around white people all the time, I started to resent my blackness and be disappointed in my appearance. White people seemed so happy, especially on tv. They had everything, were always respected/respectful and if white people liked you then that meant you were one of the good ones, and that was something to be proud of. I’d look at my hair and be disgusted that it wasn’t silky and straight. I’d look at my skin and think ‘why would anyone want to be dark skinned’? I started to hate myself and wish I were white. Being black was repulsive.
Fast forward to middle school: I started going to a predominately black middle school. I went to this school for three years straight and I was miserable every second. I had never been around so many black people in my life. I thought they were so unbearable; white people had been easy going and kind, but when I started going to middle school, these black people were not any of those things. Believe it or not, I seriously viewed my own people as lesser. After all I wasn’t like *them*, I didn’t listen to hip hop/rap, I listened to punk rock, electronica/dance music and heavy metal. I read books and spoke proper english. I loved anime and drawing. I didn’t fit in with them at all. I was teased endlessly at school to the point where I started to wonder: why can’t I get along with black people? Why are we so different? Should I just be more like them? One day, I made the mistake of mentioning that I loved Queen and I was told I acted white. I HATED being told I acted white. Yes, I had different interests, but I was still black.
As I got older, I started thinking that I needed to hide myself and my interests. If anyone asked what type of music I enjoyed, I’d just say “all types” to avoid being interrogated about why I liked those things. I wouldn’t tell anyone that I loved Cascada and Kiss, anime or drawing pictures. I kept it all to myself because if I dared mentioning it, I’d be told that I wasn’t doing what black girls should be doing.
It wasn’t until I went to college at 18 that I realized that I had an actual identity problem. I remember walking through campus and seeing a crowd of black people which made me extremely nervous. I actually took an alternate route to avoid seeing them because I had an actual fear that they were talking about me or looking at me, just as they had done in middle school. I thought I didn’t fit into the crowd of black women I had seen on campus; I’m not very pretty anyway, I don’t wear the weaves or extra beat makeup. I don’t even look like regular black girls. There’s just no place for me.
As I started to read more work by black women and follow black women on social media, I saw that my views and upbringing were extremely anti-black. It was because of anti-blackness that I saw white people as easier to be around and black people as less. It was because of anti-blackness that I took an alternate route on campus to avoid coming in contact with black people. It was because of anti-blackness that I think that black people won’t accept me for me because of my interests. I thought liking those things made me special, but it doesn’t at all. Numerous black people enjoy a plethora of things, not just me.
Today, at 22, I’m still unlearning all of the anti-blackness that I was taught. I’m learning to become more comfortable in my own skin and love my people. I wish I could undo everything in my past , and I’m certainly embarrassed to talk about it, but every day is another step towards the right path.