The Only Black Girl in the Room

Photo credit @bruthadave

I suppose the main purpose of this post is to sort of do my best to describe my experience navigating growing up in my formative years not really identifying as black or white. While not every bi-racial person may experience this, it seems that many of us do. And I feel it’s important to open our societies eyes about how others may be navigating their place in the world in hopes that we can all be a little kinder to one another.

In High School I was the girl who was friends with everyone. Not in that super cool popular sort of way. But more so in the way where I was a little nerdy but not too much, played sports but not a super dedicated athlete and was in Honors and AP classes. So, to be honest, a lot of my fellow classmates in Honors and AP weren’t black. And the black kids in my school, well, they basically thought I talked funny, dressed funny and certainly did not act, by their definition, black. I would often get dirty looks from the black girls in my High School and made fun of and one girl even threatened to beat me up because I accidentally threw a french fry at her lunch table (but that’s a story for another time).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say it was all the black girls in my school but certainly the majority. And before you start thinking that everything was just perfect with the white friends I had think again. Nowadays, we live in a culture where most Millennial white people are ‘woke’ (man, I hate that word) but in High School I had friends say things like, “they respected Hitler’s work ethic”, drop the ‘N’ word and one white male friend tell me he was growing his 'fro bigger than mine.' So yeah…not great white people. But let me clear, in my heart I believe that most people are truly good and while you’re probably reading this with your mouth agape, trust me when I say that these things were the ignorance of teenagers and that, I can forgive. What’s not okay is to let trends like this continue. So I think the goal moving forward is to just communicate with one another and for any minority to move forward we all must ban together.

Race has always been a tricky topic for me-I never really quite felt black and I certainly couldn’t identify as white so what was I? Who was I was? I was always just Rach. And part of me always felt for guilty for feeling that way. Growing up bi-racial you’re always told to identify with your African American side. I feel like the pressure clearly comes from the hard-fought battle by the Black Community for racial equality. My Dad would always tell me, “Rach, you can’t be black and good, you have to be black and better.” As you can imagine, that’s a lot of pressure for someone to have growing up.

I remember I would get into these awful fights with my older brother, who, in full transparency, has had run ins with the law off and on throughout his whole adult life, about how we racially identify. To clarify, we both are fairly light skinned, however, he most certainly identified as Black. I’ll never forget what I believe is the last Holiday we all spent together as a family. It was my Junior of College and I came home over the Thanksgiving Holiday to have my wisdom teeth out. Yes, I know, terrible timing to not be able to eat anything! Anyway, Thanksgiving rolls around and my Mom, who had decided to come up and stay at my Dad’s place to help take care of me was helping my Dad prepare the dinner and I was looking forward to all the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie I could eat. It seemed like it was actually going to be a pretty ‘normal’ dinner. Not long before dinner my brother rolls in and at first the conversation stays pretty light. Then somehow things took a turn when it came time for dessert. My Mom was cutting us slices of pie and asked if we wanted Kool-Whip on top. I immediately said yes. I mean, who doesn’t want that deliciously sugary goodness on top of more sugary delicious goodness??! Am I right?! My brother chuckled to himself before answering no. I couldn’t resist so I asked him, "What was that about?” And he turned to me and dead face serious said, “Having Kool-Whip on your pie is a, ‘White people thing’. “

Well for some reason that sparked something in me and I basically lost my shit. Going on a rant about how ridiculous of a statement that was and that we are part White, to which he quickly retorted, “I’m not, I’m Black.” When I told him that in saying that it somehow in my mind disowned our Mother, he just shrugged it off. But for me I couldn’t just pick a race and say, “Hey this is me; this is who I racially identify as.” To this day, I still mark, “Two or more races” when filling out paperwork.



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