For most of my life, and even now, I’ve lived in very White spaces. My early memories are seeing cartoons that reflected faces of my friends, and I having to explain the purpose of the Proud Family existing and being so Black with only one White girl. I’ve been told not to color in the lines of paintings with black skin, pink, purple, and polka-dotted would have to do. I remember how hard it’s always been to find products for my hair; so I’ve learned to make them. I remember how difficult it was to celebrate my skin; so now I gravitate to other melanin-ated beings like myself.
From childhood to adulthood it hasn’t gotten much easier, it’s the same issues but different language. I’d have to explain my existence on White campuses, arguing that I did go there; No I don’t play any sports (nor am I extremely smart). I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to code switch, to identify fake friends and fake people. I’ve memorized exactly why you ain’t about to say the “n” word if you ain’t lived an “n” word life and a rebuttal for every lame retort back in the book. I’ve found Black joy with Black bodies who were having the same Black experience as me. I’ve found “Moonlight”, “Dear White People”, “Get Out”, and “She’s Gotta Have It.” When White Kids say “Frank Sinatra” I scream “DIANA ROSS BBY!”When White kids take “YASSS,” I’ve already moved to “Okay ____,” and “I see you ____,” with a little “YOU BETTA,” and let us not forget “F*** IT UP!!” Needless to say, I didn’t have double-dutch as a child, but I sure as hell have dominos (someone please teach me spades).
I’ve learned to survive micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, police brutality, racial fetishization, and the gaslighting of my Black feelings. I’ve learned how to swing my Black hips, and let Ebonics and patios flow off my Black lips. Loving myself, all of myself, Blackness included, has been the most difficult thing for me in a world that taught me that I shouldn’t point out race. In a world that tried to be colorblind to my existence, that tried the White out my life.
Loving myself, loving my Blackness, as where it is still a struggle together, has been the most revolutionary act of defiance.
As where people try to understand my struggle, our struggle, the Black struggle, I found solidarity. I found AfroPunk, Poetry Slams, and Black Lives Matter. I’ve found myself in spaces and people who get it (or are a lot more likely to). So with that, I leave a message to my younger self:
“You are out there, you exist, give it time, and you’ll see yourself.”