Tag Archives: whitewashed

Am I Black Enough?

12 Mar

I didn’t listen to Tupac growing up, I’ve never seen any of the Friday movies, and I can’t twerk.

Only a priest at Confession could get me to admit all of that. I was ashamed to say so in fear that my “Authentic Black Girl Card” would be revoked.

The other day I picked up Patricia Collins’ Black Sexual Politics.* She explains how mass media “blurs the lines between fact and fiction” on the image of Black people, and because of that, some representations of Black people have become commonsense “truths,” when really they are all stereotypes created by sources outside of our communities.

Sadly, we adopt these stereotypes and hold one another to them. We are expected to “act Black,” and we ostracize those who do not.

At young ages, Black children who are raised in Black communities learn what it means to be “authentically” Black. I picked up on in the 3rd grade. By that time, I’d learned to speak a certain way, pronouncing or not pronouncing certain syllables.

I often felt the need to hide my social class –so I avoided telling people that I was from Ladera Heights (a wealthy Black neighborhood in LA) because in elementary school, being from Inglewood was more acceptable.

In middle school I learned to dance how Black girls are expected to dance: bent over in front of a guy, moving my ass on his crotch to the beat. I was never good at it. But imagine my joy when I realized I could Crip-walk. I thought to myself, “Yes! Evidence that proves I’m really Black!

But despite all my attempts, I was still labeled whitewashed—and I still am (you know it’s bad when your Korean friends say it).

The “problem” is: I don’t fit the stereotype of what the media says a Black woman should be. The societal definition of what it means to be Black (which is dangerously similar to the racist19th Century beliefs of colonial powers) is how some of us define ourselves.

And those definitions are damaging. For example, Collins tells us, “Black men in pursuit of booty calls may appear to be more authentically ‘Black’ than men who study, and the experiences of poor and working class Black men may be established as being more authentically Black than those of the middle-and upper-middle class African American men” (Collins 151).

So I’m not going to define myself by racist standards of what it means to be Black—because you can’t be genuine if others are still defining who you are.

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