Growing up in a primarily white community and then later on going to school in a predominantly hispanic school, I had to constantly grapple with my blackness. As a light-skinned black girl, I was never really looked at as being really Black, despite both my parents being black primarily. I was always asked if I was mixed with whiteness, to which I would reply yes, but it always made me a little uncomfortable. I felt as if my blackness had to be mixed with whiteness in order to be accepted by the mainstream white majority.
As a child, I was clueless about the unfairness coming from people due to racism. I was aware of racism, as I had fallen in love with studying the civil rights movement, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. But I never thought that I had faced racism, not on a conscious level. I thought that racism was open bombings and refusing to allow black people in the same bus and institutions as white people, and not letting black people had the right to vote, but I never did realize just how much racism affected my daily life even then.
I remember one time when I was in fourth grade, I asked my mom to just wear my hair out, no styles, no relaxers. I wanted to be like the other kids and not have to do too much to my hair. So I did, for a day, and I remember nothing of the day except for the looks I received from students. They sneered at me, touching my hair often times without my permission, and a few times I got asked by both white and black students when I was “actually going to do something with my hair.” Which is what had me begging my mother for a hair relaxers.
Growing up in a predominantly white school was very nice, as we received a lot of privileges and an education that was actually rather decent. I had the ability to spend money on things that I wanted, which would usually be Baby Phat clothes, until I realized that Baby Phat was out of style. But looking back, and having some of my elementary and middle schools friends on Facebook, I can see that we really didn’t escape the clutches of racism-white supremacy. Of the people who I have recently deleted or blocked as a friend, the majority of them come from this time period. It becomes a sad state to see, especially when I see some people who I used to be friends with are now agents of this stupid system. It becomes even sadder when I see the number of black people arguing against the Black Lives Matter Movement and the upset about the police force unfairly target black people and the white privilege that people have.
My entire life, I have had to fight against those who have said, “Oh, well, you aren’t really black?” I wasn’t black enough because speak like a black person, act like a black girl, hang out with black people, all of those were false. Coming into academia, I have had to fight twice as hard against professors, students, and general people who presume to tell me that my points are invalid because I am an angry black woman, or that I need to include other groups of people, or that I haven’t done my research. I’ve addressed my education previously, and I’ve discussed the angry black woman trope. But what I haven’t discussed is being told that I, as a queer black woman, need to be more inclusive.
This is the point where I turn to Rachel Dolezal. For anyone who isn’t aware, it has come out recently that Rachel Dolezal, an activist and president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has been revealed to be white, and that she has been pretending for a number of years. She has run the media, gotten to speak in many places about her “experience” as a black woman. I haven’t spoken about her, but I felt that I had to when I discovered that she still identifies as a black woman. I also learned that she will be writing a book. I will discuss the academics of this topic in my next part, so stay tuned.