I recently read a very good blog post over at The After Party about perceptions surrounding race. Particularly how we can jump to conclusions about situations and how it isn’t always the people you expect to be making those assumptions. I could relate to much of what was written, I’ve had similar experiences. The post did get me to start thinking though about how sometimes I seem to feel as though I am an impostor. I have always struggled with fitting in and what that means and how that impacts my life. I am going to say something and I hope you the internet folks don’t hate me…sometimes I feel a fool for not having more of a black experience growing up.
Now before you start pouncing, let me try and explain. My mom the eldest of 9, grew up in the midwest. Her family was on and off welfare (a fact I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s), she attended catholic school from 1st-12th grade and went into the military when she turned 18. She is a stern, non-nonsense black woman. She doesn’t believe in ghetto slang (her words) doesn’t even understand where it came from because it wasn’t there when she grew up. (I’m sure the priests and nuns were keeping it real.) And my mom is not real talkative about her childhood I am left only with the impression that it was bad. Although, I spent a lot of time with my aunts, uncles and cousins I was very sheltered I believe from family drama. My mom had a falling out with her family when I was 8 so I was pretty much cut off from her side. My dad’s side was very involved in my pre-teen years and my grandmother was a constant support until her passing in my late 20’s. My schools (public) were in an upper middle class neighborhood that was
predominantly all white. I didn’t really have a black friend until I was in junior high.
This was right around the time we moved to D.C. I was swiftly put into catholic school (my first private/religious school). The school was
predominantly all black. This was a huge culture shock to me. The kids constantly asked me why I talked white, and it was the first time I felt racism I am embarrassed to admit. Constant taunts about my skin, speech and hair. I excelled academically and this certainly was cause for more conflict in a small 8th grade class. High school included a small D.C. private school and then boarding school. I had 1 or 2 black friends but they were in the minority. This continued until college…my best friend was a black gal from Newark. She and I stayed close for some years but drifted apart after I left school early to come home and work and go to school at night.
I get along with all sorts of folks, I am not a HATER but the few close friends I have are predominantly white. Just how it has worked out.
So what am I trying to say? I don’t always get the in jokes of things or the negative jokes either (I was accused being a racist because I laughed at an email joke involving rabbits, how the hell was I suppose to know that was code for black people?), I am not up on the latest music, this is genre irrelevant…I just don’t have the time and usually if the library don’t have it…well that means I am outta luck. It also means I feel a bit of an impostor trying to impose my comments on issues I haven’t experienced…don’t get me wrong, I generally have an opinion but I keep them to myself (being told you trying to be white and denying your black self has gotten so old for me).
I have a few posts I wrote a while back in an attempt to release some of my own frustrations and explain in a writing workshop my own personal experiences to some folks who were trying to pass judgments. I hope these give more insights into my personal experience as they relate to race and how it has played into shaping who I am. I will post them over the next few days. My experience isn’t the same as yours but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand and listen, frankly I don’t think there is just 1 experience anyway. After living across the U.S. and traveling internationally, I realized how unique we are our own microcosm of experiences and God I love that. And I hope you do too.