The “White” Black Girl
The Personal is Political: The “White” Black Girl
Looking at a minority group from the outside-in, its easy to assume that they all share similar stereotypes, or a preconceived notion about a group of people. With African-Americans, an oppressed history and stereotype-based media has caused an internal split of ideologies within their own community. Obviously, some developed a hatred against the whites, but some developed a hatred for themselves. Moving to Atlanta in a predominantly black neighborhood as a pre-teen in 2006, I received the short end of both of those contradicting sticks: my hair being “too nappy”, yet my persona being “too white”.
Mind boggling, isn’t it? I’m even surprised that I still turned out slightly conceited. But what exactly is happening here? Why am I being shamed by other black kids for having “nappy” hair? Their hair is just like mine, underneath their chemical relaxers, wigs and hair extensions. At the same time, why do some of the say I’m “acting white” for not using slang, spiking my hair into a mohawk, and drawing manga? Why are blacks tearing each other apart? As stated before, the consequences of dehumanizing a group of people causes decades of adverse psychological effects, including self-hate. Colorism is a form of prejudice against lighter or darker shades within your own race. It goes back to earlier days in the United States when slavery was legal. Slaved that were raped by their masters had lighter colored children, who would receive less strenuous work, such as housework, as opposed their darker counterparts in the fields. They were also treated more favorably by whites. It was believed that mulattos, derogatory for half white and half black people, were smarter, more civilized, and therefore less threatening to white society, giving them more privileges. This internal segregation created envy and a desire to be lighter or white. Even today in media, lighter skinned blacks are portrayed more in media and perceived as -more attractive.
Anyhow, with my experience, I didn’t get much issue with my skin color since I would often be considered as “brown-skinned” or in the middle on the black color spectrum unless I spent a summer in Tampa. Then I’d jokingly be called burnt. Going off on a random side note, I’ve met a lot of brown to dark skinned people afraid of going outside because of not wanting to get darker. My primary issue however, was my hair. I was natural (not chemically processed) my whole life, and whenever it wasn’t in braids I was constantly questioned by black kids and adults about why I don’t get a relaxer or a weave. Growing up with a mixed community in Tampa, the white kids touched my hair because it was so “soft and fluffy”. It was admired. In Atlanta, the black kids tried to run their fingers through it and laugh when they got caught in the kinks. The only time natural hair was tolerable was if it was long or loosely-coiled, so I’d blow dry my hair regularly to visibly show length and lessen the kinks. One of the cringiest moments in high school was 9th grade, and someone threw a paper airplane in the class and it crash-landed vertically in my afro. I’ve also had a great moment when a black substitute teacher defended me and said something on the lines of “maybe she doesn’t want her hair to look European.” However, by 10th grade I succumbed to the ridicule and began straightening my hair everyday till it broke off. I’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning to begin the 2 hour process.
Contrary to colorism’s unconscious issues of internal racism and desire to be white/lighter, some of the black community is quick to cut each other down if they suspect that you think you’re better than them for being lighter/mixed, or “acting white”. Acting/talking white is a term that some black kids would say to black kids who are nerdy, spoke proper English, dressed certain styles or had interests that weren’t considered typical in black culture. Until I found my subcultural, alternative/anime/goth tribe in 11th grade, all I knew myself as was the “white girl”. Part of why I was different and how I could deal with it was that I’d been using the internet at what was considered an early age (four-years-old in 1998), and I found an online community by 6th grade that I could completely immerse myself in with and be almost completely unjudged (minus internet trolls who harass black people).
Even though as a black child I knew that my people went through slavery and segregation, I don’t think that I ever would have understood nor have sympathy for them without a deep analysis on the psychological impacts of systemic oppression. Now that access of the internet and social media have expanded in the 2010’s, the black community is sharing thoughts, ideas and truths that have allowed them to grow as well. We are slowly, yet gracefully getting out of our old ways, merging with other cultures, and bringing awareness to those cultures about our history. With that being said, I am confident that the kids I went to school with now understand and regret their ignorance, and I also forgive them. And as the rest of the world obtains a better understanding, they will also eventually let down their barriers entirely.