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Woman: I’m black, but I’m uncomfortable around black people

A Talented One
A Talented One stewMembers Posts: 4,202 ✭✭✭
edited August 2015 in For The Grown & Sexy
I’m black, but I’m uncomfortable around black people

Growing up in lily-white Wisconsin, people often told me, “You’re not black.” Eventually, I started to believe it

By Danielle Small

It happened. I failed the “black” test. My hair stylist and I were chatting while she was taking a break from retightening my locs. I made a funny quip, and she extended her palm so that we could partake in the standard Black American handshake. In what was most likely the longest three seconds in the universe, I stared at her hand in befuddlement, trying to figure out what she was doing. By the time I realized that this was the handshake, it was too late. I tried to recover with some weird amalgamation of a fist bump and a high five, but the damage had been done. I had revealed myself to be the Carlton to her Fresh Prince.

I replayed the scene over and over in my head during my walk to the train. How could I have been so oblivious to an obvious cultural norm? This set off a mini existential crisis where I came to one of my greatest philosophical epiphanies: I’m uncomfortable around black people. This is a peculiar realization being that I am also a black person.

But you see, my stylist embodies a certain Harlem black cool I’ve always been told (by white people) that I lack. Every time I walk into the black barbershop where she does hair, I feel like I’m going to be “found out.” In my mind when other black people see me, they’re thinking: “She may look black, but she’s not black black, if you know what I mean.”

Where does this discomfort come from? And why do I think of Blackness as a test I am doomed to fail?

Like most psychological problems, it all began in my childhood, specifically the eight years I spent living in all white towns in rural Wisconsin. If there was one phrase I heard more than “🤬 ,” it was “You’re not black.” Talk about irony.

Sometimes it was phrased as a “compliment,” meaning you’re one of the good black people. But other times it was meant so white people, whose sole interaction with black culture came through the distorted lens of racist media, could assert their own twisted version of blackness over me.

“I’m blacker than you because I know more Tupac songs than you.”

“You’re not black. Your lips aren’t even that big.”

“You’re not even that black. Look, my ass is fatter than yours.”

“I know so many white girls that can gangsta walk better than you.”

“You’re not black, you can’t even dance!”

It didn’t surprise me that Rachel Dolezal truly thought she was black. I’ve long known that, for many white people, being black is simply checking off a list of well-worn stereotypes.

I always brushed off those comments, because I knew I was black enough to be called “🤬 .” I was black enough that white people stared at me everywhere I went in those lily-white towns. And I was black enough to be accused of stealing during shopping trips.

But if you hear something enough, it can seep into your unconscious and start to guide your decisions. Somewhere along the way I started believing that I wasn’t black enough, whatever that meant. This is the 🤬 of all realizations: Racism made me uncomfortable around my own people. Ain’t that some 🤬 ?

And it even affected my college experience. I never applied to any historical black colleges because I thought everyone would make fun of me because my black wasn’t cool enough. I was more comfortable with the thought of being around white people, where my blackness was for sure going to be denigrated in one form or another, than I was with the thought of being around my own people. By that time I had already accepted racism as a staple of life, but the thought of possibly being rejected by people that looked like me was too much to bear.

Recently I was hanging out with a friend who was born and raised in Harlem. For me she represents the epitome of black cool and I envy that she grew up around black people her entire life. She told me that because of her alternative interests, namely metal music, she was accused of “acting white” by her high school peers.

No black person has ever outright accused me of not being black enough, while that’s all she ever experienced as a teenager. Our childhoods couldn’t have been any more different, but we both grappled with having our own blackness invalidated by superficial parameters.

In the foreword for the book “Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes: “There are 40 million black people in this country, and there are 40 million ways to be black … I do not mean to suggest that we are all of us in our own separate boxes, that one black life bears no relation to another. Of course not. We are not a monolith, but we are a community.”

It’s taken some time, but now I’m aware that there is no “black test” and that, even though I’m more Carlton than Fresh Prince, my blackness is still valid. My hair stylist doesn’t see me as some racial imposter. To her, I’m just some weirdo who doesn’t know how to do a proper handshake. Resisting the temptation to police my own blackness and the blackness of others has been a gradual process, but a necessary one.

And who knows what I’ve missed out on? How many friends I could’ve made, how many organizations I didn’t join out of fear. For years I isolated myself from the community that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. talks about, keeping potential sources of emotional support at arm’s length. And with new hashtags popping up every day, strong emotional support systems are needed more than ever.

White supremacy takes on many forms. It’s most visible as the daily physical assault on black lives. But we shouldn’t underestimate the psychological effects of something as seemingly simple as how we define what it means to be black.

Danielle Small is a writer based in New York City. Her book, "Confessions of a Token Black Girl," received rave reviews from her mom and her pet turtle. Follow her on Twitter @danielleabeda.



  • iron man1
    iron man1 Genius, Billionaire, Playboy, Philanthropist Avengers TowerMembers Posts: 29,989 ✭✭✭✭✭
    She sounds like a lame 🤬 her. Only read up to her not knowing the universal Black man/woman handshake.
  • Kat
    Kat Don't @ Me to Dumb Shit. H-TownMembers Posts: 50,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Good read.
  • _Goldie_
    _Goldie_ ablackweb.com Members, Moderators, Writer Posts: 30,349 Regulator
    🤬 that 🤬
  • Kat
    Kat Don't @ Me to Dumb Shit. H-TownMembers Posts: 50,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    AP21 wrote: »
    kat you aint read that 🤬

    Every word.

    Good reminder to treat folks as individuals with individual circumstances.
  • Kat
    Kat Don't @ Me to Dumb Shit. H-TownMembers Posts: 50,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have no patience for blacks who dont know which is the righteous side.

    I will not waste my time ignorant blacks in 2015.

    Did you even read it or are you offering headline commentary?
  • Kat
    Kat Don't @ Me to Dumb Shit. H-TownMembers Posts: 50,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    She grew up in a white neighborhood and got fed that propaganda about blacks.....

    In essence she truly was a white person because she shares the same mind they have so the black folks that were saying she wasnt "black enough" had a point...maybe it wasnt said in a more sensitive manner but they had a point.

    Black folks weren't saying that to her, it was the white folks she grew up around..therefore when she finally was around black people she felt paranoid that they felt the same way.
  • Splackavelli
    Splackavelli I'll getchu bitch!!! Somewhere drunk off my ass.Members Posts: 18,806 ✭✭✭✭✭
    _Goldie_ wrote: »
    🤬 that 🤬

    .....right in the 🤬
  • Fosheezy
    Fosheezy AKA Flying Wonders the Diamond Mind Members Posts: 3,204 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Highlights plz...
  • _Goldie_
    _Goldie_ ablackweb.com Members, Moderators, Writer Posts: 30,349 Regulator
    This 🤬 want's a cookie cuz she realized all black people arent all the same? foh
  • Brother_Five
    Brother_Five Road to PerditionMembers Posts: 4,448 ✭✭✭✭✭
    the title is misleading, but who's fault is that?
  • A Talented One
    A Talented One stew Members Posts: 4,202 ✭✭✭
    too bad reality dont work that way.

    just another black person that thinks they transcended race... awaiting that 🤬 wake up call.

    wonder if she will go on a shooting spree as well....

    No. You're way off. Did you read the article?
  • Rasta.
    Rasta. Mt. ZionMembers Posts: 9,342 ✭✭✭✭✭
    OP, what really do you try to achieve or convey with these threads? I need a thoughtful and unbiased response if you could
  • count  remy
    count remy Members Posts: 392 ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    oh well, I image that's how jewish people feel when they're around germans...
  • A Talented One
    A Talented One stew Members Posts: 4,202 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    people will read the title and the beginning of the article and say 🤬 her she is a cornball. her realization is one that happened to plenty folks. it happened to me. I was raised in the inner city by my aunt and uncle. I felt some type of way growing up with both a mother and father figure. my peoples owned the house I grew up in. we had two cars and for a while I was considered the rich kid on the block. in my effort to be cool and accepted by my peers I ran the streets. It was like living a double life. doing my homework to please my aunt and uncle and bangin to please the neighborhood.

    I did jail and said damn this aint me. I had done well in high school so i applied to college and was ashamed I got accepted. I went to college (HBCU) and I had the hardest time adjusting to people who wanted to do something with their lives. I was down there walking around acting tough like I was back on the block. in my head it made me a real 🤬 and all the college kids were corny. i did my work but hid it like i did back at home. i didn't want to be considered soft or a sellout for trying to survive in the white's man world.

    i didn't realize until my junior year that i too had spent way too much time trying to pass a black test. graduated college went back home and i was received in the hood way differently than i thought i would be. i talk to the kids in the hood and you can see their eyes light up when u mention college. i can also see their struggle as they try to figure out will their peoples look at them crazy for going.

    for her it was a handshake and for her friend it was choice in music. for me it was college. it was like jail made me more black than college. i think a lot of black kids feel that way. if u never been to jail u aint a real 🤬 . if u went to college u were an oreo.

    your black test might be different but i think we all try to pass one

    Good post about your experience.

    And still some of these lying negros will deny that this sort of thing ever happens.
  • D0wn
    D0wn Members Posts: 10,818 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2015
    Pictures of the brawd

    She's cute
    [img]https://scontent-iad3-1.🤬 .fbcdn.net/hphotos-xap1/v/t1.0-9/18524_378489442232427_1547217305_n.jpg?oh=b3a4ec0e55901c64abaa6a8917d23db0&oe=567742F5[/img]

  • Kat
    Kat Don't @ Me to Dumb Shit. H-TownMembers Posts: 50,667 ✭✭✭✭✭
    It's an editorial for Christ's sake..no it may not be earth shattering to you, but it may be something someone needs to read.

    Sometimes y'all are difficult for no damn reason.