No, I’m not about to give a history or literature lesson on John Howard Griffin. This blog is strictly concerning my own personal journey.
No, it has nothing to do with the upcoming Black History Month.
It has to do with my everyday life.
This one won’t be full of laughs, but catch me tomorrow. I’ll be here all week.
There’s a running joke between my wife, our friends and my family about how she’s ‘blacker’ than I am even while being a white woman. I roll my eyes when it’s carted out while everybody laughs. It doesn’t bother me because deep down I think it’s done to make light or relieve the stress of a situation I’ve dealt with a lot in my life.
You see, I’ve been told many, many times throughout my forty-six years that I don’t act black enough. I guess I have a laundry list of characteristics that don’t fit the stereotype. I can’t dance. That is to say, I have no rhythm at all. I more than likely look like Elaine from that episode of Seinfeld and that is the god’s honest truth.
When I make initial contact with my clients and their parents, a lot of the times they are shocked that I’m black. I even had one mother tell me I sounded like I should have been a middle-aged white woman.
I don’t speak what’s affectionately known as Ebonics. In fact, there are times when I have no idea what is being said. To add to that, I grew up in a small town in Arkansas. I haven’t been back in over 20 years but I used to visit relatives and friends while I was in college. Some would speak and some would thumb their nose at me and whisper how I thought I was better than them because I never sounded like them and I went away to college. Years later I heard that the same individuals were waiting for me to fall flat on my face or end up pregnant.
Furthermore, I don’t listen to hip hop or rap music because I don’t know what I’m getting. Some of it is demeaning to women and detrimental to my race in general in my opinion. I don’t listen to a lot of R&B for the same reasons. I’m old school. Bring me some Sugar Hill Gang, Houdini, Cool Mo Dee and some of the pioneers in the genre and I’ll listen to it all day long. However, I also listen to alternative, Metal, Pop, Indie Rock, and a bunch of other shit the most. Hell, I was singing along with Fleetwood Mac just the other day as they looked for Big Love.
To make matters worse, I’m a lesbian, which is still taboo in my community, and I’m married to a white woman, which isn’t all that unusual. But, in some circles I’d be categorized as an Uncle Tom, someone who has betrayed the culture and has social allegiance to the race who enslaved us. I’m far from that. Very far.
It’s okay that I can’t dance.
It’s okay that I don’t speak Ebonics.
It’s okay that I don’t like hip hop.
I know my history. I know where we have been. I know that at times we are stuck, and I see where some of us are trying to go. I celebrate my culture in all its forms. No one is alike and nor should they be. That’s okay too.
Stereotypes are alive and well in the black community and they can be used by people who look like me to stigmatize each other and create chaos within. After all, a minority that’s split and factioned is easier to keep down. In turn, those same stereotypes are use by other races to feed into continued prejudice as well.
It’s like an attack coming from all sides and within.
This is something I’ve addressed within the LGBTQIA and lesfic communities.
We are indeed microcosms and embroiled in the same issue. Are we not?