This might come as a surprise to some, but I’m black! Yes, visually, ethnically, and culturally black. Why am I telling you this? Well, it was brought to my attention that I’m not really black. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this; college was the first, but I’ve heard it off and on since then. Naturally, I was taken aback by that assessment and of course asked for clarification. The following is why I was/am perceived as not being really black.
I was born and raised in England. I moved hear when I was 15 and still have my accent. It may not be as strong in the conversational sense as it’s kind of hard to understand me on occasion, so I have to enunciate more; however, it’s still easy to detect the accent. That being said, it’s safe to assume I speak Standard English. In speaking with me on the phone, I can and have been perceived as being white because some people have a hard time realizing that blacks can and do speak without the use of Ebonics. Furthermore, there are those who still have a hard time understanding (then moreso than now) that there are blacks in England/Europe. That being said, I’m seen as aloof, bougie, or “less black” by the way I speak instead of being seen as educated, a good communicator, or just favorable to being clearly understood.
I have “White/European features”! That’s quite a newsflash to me because I’m of mixed heritage in the sense that my family is Jamaican, of Maroon (African) descent on my mother’s side with a mix of white, Arawak Indian, and Cuban. On my father’s side, I’m mixed with Arawak Indian, African, and maybe some white; the latter has never been confirmed. These races make me the person I am and my features are a result of all of them. I had no say in that fact that my nose is straight and not wide, but my paternal grandmother was part Indian; hence the feature. You get where I’m going with this.
I don’t dress black! Hmm? I had to really think about that one. I didn’t know there was such a thing for women. Brutha’s I know there is an unwritten dress code to some degree. *lol*. Anyway, in questioning this one, I was told that I wear “white branded” jeans, I don’t rock sneakers often, I wear clothes that are my size appropriate, and I style my hair in a “white” way. I found myself laughing hysterically considering, I see MANY black women with platinum blonde hair. Hmm? This perception of me really made me laugh because I’ve always dressed in a manner that suited both me alone and my personality. I don’t like trendy clothes and tend not to follow style, but rather set them. Again, I wasn’t aware that the way one dresses and the designers chosen were indicative or race.
I listen to ALL kinds of music. I listen to music for the beat yes; however, it’s the lyrical content that truly means something to me and I will listen to whatever suits me and my moods based on that. Music that calls me out my name, is misogynistic, promotes violence, trivializes and demeans sex and intimacy as something other than a beautiful experience, and whatever else that’s being spewed out, is just not for me regardless of who’s singing it.
I’ve dated outside of my race. Considering I grew up in a country were it’s truly a melting pot because there are currently more interracial relationships and biracial children that it seems like “beige” people will be the majority; I’ve always kept my options open. I like a man for who he is not what color he is. I’ve had my share of the good and bad of the races I’ve dated, but that doesn’t make black men less desirable to me. Hell, one of my future ex husbands is both black AND English. *lol*
These (mis)perceptions used to give me room for annoyed pauses, but now I simply laugh because it shows a level of ignorance of both blacks and whites. Whites have also considered me to be “less black” or “not like them” because of my features, speech, and how I carry myself. Amazing!
Anyhoo…Until I open my mouth, I’m still just another black woman who gets the crooked eye from security in a major department store or some old white lady; so it’s time to stop judging a book by it’s cover and open it instead. One might be pleasantly surprised by the content.