ON BLACKNESS AND AUTHENTICITY
Inspired by @shanaz and 👑Beyoncé
- •The shame started with lice.There was an outbreak in my predominately white first grade class. The after school teacher told me not to worry because my hair was too "greasy for lice to want to nest in." I felt ashamed because my black hair wasn't a hospitable place for disgusting insects. I cried. My mom tried to comfort me. I didn't believe her.
- •I didn't understand why my mom insisted my dolls look like me.Now, I get it. She wanted me to see my skin as beautiful, as normal, as powerful.
- •The first time I heard someone say nigger was in 5th gradeA girl said it in response to the only other black kid (a guy) in my grade calling her a dumb blonde. He came to my classroom and motioned for me to come outside, and told me what happened. We went to the administration. He got in trouble for calling her dumb.
- •I went to Catholic, predominately white schools my entire lifeI spent 5th and 6th grade at an Episcopalian school but it was basically the same. I didn't have a term for "micro aggressions" then, but I felt shame and embarrassment when girls compared their suntan to my skin, when everyone stared at me during discussions of slavery, or when my AP English teacher asked me what I "as a black person" felt about the novel "Invisible Man."
- •I was also a preacher's daughter in a black churchWe were in church at least 3 times a week. The church left an indelible mark on me as a person. It grounded me in a specifically black, beautiful, Jesus way.
- •I wasn't completely accepted in either environment.I was simultaneously too black to fit in neatly at school, but not black enough to be accepted without suspicion at church. I compensated for the dissonance by trying to become a mix of what I thought both communities wanted-rocking jersey dresses and multi-colored Timbs, but also memorizing Fall Out Boy lyrics and devouring O.C. episodes
- •By law school, I thought I had it all worked out, and then fell head over heels for a white man.He was my first love, and not at all who I imagined myself with. My dad asked if I had considered the "calculus" of interracial dating. I told him math was never my favorite subject.
- •I called my dad sobbing after Trayvon Martin was killed. "Why am I here?" I asked.I meant, in law school, with the intention of becoming a prosecutor. I'd always justified my desire by thinking about how many victims were black. But with each report of another murder of black child or man or woman by police officers, I felt sicker and less sure that I could really be a part of a system sustained by black death.
- •All of this to say, like most people, I have to work every day to be my most authentic self.And that is complicated, as so many things are, by my race, by how I understand it, by how others use it, by how society demeans it.
- •And every day, as I learn and understand more about who I am, what it means to be black, I am emboldened.
- •My black is beautiful, powerful, and damn magical.
- •And the black community is even betterThere's truly nothing like black joy, the shared experiences of a people that have risen to create and celebrate culture, laughter, and yes, lemonade.
- •And today, I am grateful for all of it. My experiences, good and bad, my parents for being unapologetically black, and most especially, for my blackness.Also that I've never had lice and Beyonce blessed my soul last night. #winning