Ever since I was a little girl I was told that I acted “like a white girl”. I was told that because I acted and spoke a certain way I wasn’t “black”. Up until the 7th grade, I went to a predominately white school and lived in a predominately white neighborhood. My mom and I lived downtown in Philadelphia. I was surrounded by a lot of wealthy individuals who happened to be white. I was exposed to all types of music, fashion and different activities. Some of my favorite artist included Britney Spears, NSYNC and the spice girls. I remember wanting a pair of sketchers instead of Nike’s. One day, one of my Asian friends from school told me that she liked me because I didn’t act like a black girl. As a young child I didn’t understand why she would say that to me. Her comment bothered me but didn’t really bother me as much as the comments my family used to make. Being around my family as a child was bittersweet. I always looked forward to being around my family but a few family members would call me “white girl” or tell me that I was acting “white”. Those comments used to make me feel insecure. I loved being black. I loved my culture. So telling me I was acting white was insulting and confused me because i didn’t know you could act like a color.
When I got to the 7th grade I transferred to a predominately black school. I didn’t want people calling me a “white girl” or telling me that I acted white. I tried really hard to fit in. I remember trying to deepen my voice and play it “cool.” I began listening to more Power 99 and less Q102 just to fit in. I traded in my sketchers for some air forces. I thought by doing that it would help me to be more “black”. Boy was I wrong. I still was criticized by the way I spoke and acted. I was known as the “smart girl” that acted “white” because I spoke properly. My classmates called me the smart girl because I knew a lot of the lessons that were being taught because I learned them a year before from my prior school(Don’t even get me started on that topic) .
Let’s fast forward to my adult life. I have completely embraced my personality. For years I didn’t like the way I spoke and I always thought I was different. I wouldn’t speak around certain groups of people because I didn’t want to be judged or talked about. This year, I heard a few comments about my “blackness”. I was told that I wasn’t black because I didn’t eat watermelon or hot sauce and because of how I spoke. These comments came from both black and white people. I started to feel like that insecure little girl from back in the day.
So why do we associate speaking proper English, knowing the latest pop songs, knowing how to swim and being intelligent with “acting” white? As if black people aren’t allowed to do these things? Where did this come from? We live in a society that presents a stereotypical image of what it means to be black. When I fill out my ethnicity on paperwork I have to circle “Black/African American”. When I look in the mirror I see a black woman. I go through the same struggles that black women go through. I am me! and that’s all that I can be. No matter how I act or speak, I am still a proud black woman and nobody can take that away from me.
“Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white” – Barack Obama