I can still remember the day I was with my sister, and she was on her way to meet up with her friends. Like any younger sibling, I begged to tag along. I thought, “heeeyyy, I get to hang out with all the cool, popular kids.” So my sister, who at this time had way more…- for lack of better words, “Black flavor” than me, walks up to her friends and is like, “what’s up, what’s up, clapping hands, and laughing with everyone?!” She turns around and says “everybody, this is my lil sister.” Me, in all my quirky 8yr old glory says in the most properest voice“hello everybody, my name is.., nice to meet you all!”
Silence…stares. I remember some sister’s had this contorted look of confusion on their faces. In unison the room erupted in laughter! People asked me “yooooo, why you sound like that, you talk like a white girl?” This was the early 90s, and at that time there was still a present social divide. I’m sure you could see why they reacted in that way. The night continued on in diss after diss, and mimic after mimic. Every time I spoke a sentence, it would be answered with teasing and more teasing. It may seem like nothing, but it wasn’t just one night. It happened over and over for years. In my late childhood/teeny-bopper years, I couldn’t even make girlfriends. OK! I talk “proper” so what!! That doesn’t make me a “white girl!” Speaking properly is not only reserved for the European race. I’m not a “valley girl,” and I don’t think I’m better than anyone.
If I would have known then, what I know now! A schooling would’ve been in session each time. I was a very sensitive child, and my “snap back, come back” game was literally weaksauce, brah… weaksauce. I took each encounter as a direct hit. I didn’t know how to defend myself… “Well hell, if my own people won’t accept me, I’ll just hangout with the people I’m always being accused of trying to being like.” They’ve never made fun of the way I talk, and even though they call me an oreo, hey! everyone loves oreos!!
I began developing this armor around my sisters because I feared what they would say about my quirkiness, the way I sounded, and the things that I did. I detached myself from everything in me that reminded me of (them) us. I walked around with my blonde extensions and green contacts. I mean, how many of us sister’s have had some blonde hair in their life time? No disrespect, I swear, because I really do love you all, but it’s a serious question to ask yourself. What is/was the reason why? I thought I fit a certain “look.” Like, “everyone loves a blonde.” My circle of friends turned into Sarah, Sarah, Saraleigh, and Kacey.
I would make side-eyed comments to them as I tried to fit in. In my valley girl accent, I’d be like, “Like, Omgeee Sarah, “I hope I don’t sound “ghetto, like them.”
Or, I would purposely say to them “ugh my hair doesn’t look nappy does it?” I know this sounds crazy, and maybe to any self aware reader, these depictions and comments sound much like “self-hate.” For me at least, I wanted to disassociate myself with this image of the Black girl being overly, aggressive, loud and angry, always screaming out the side of her neck type. Instead, I turned into this character of what society did like. Hint (the blonde hair and green contacts) I sit back and laugh now. Like really?! WTF was I thinking! lol.
The more self aware I became, I began feeling out of place. I would feel this uneasy tension among groups of my white counterparts, feeling like “I don’t belong.” There was this unexplained tension in the air, everyone questioning my attendance. To make matters worse, my boyfriend at the time had a neighbor who took freely to calling me a ni**er. My boyfriend and his family were “just so upset by this.” Too “upset” to do anything about it I guess. As time progressed, the Heather’s, Ashley’s and the Lindsay’s started to be uncomfortable with my presence. Throwing shade ignited by intimidation. “Your butt is sooo big, you’ll never fit in my jeans!” Is your hair really that long?!
Realization told me that somewhere I’d lost my identity. As a Black woman, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I can’t be proper because I’m not white, and I can’t be white… because uh, I’m so obviously Black. Self-love was nowhere in my vocabulary. I didn’t like myself. Always feeling out of place. A square trying to fit into a circle. Self hate on the other hand was ravishing through my psyche. Something inside of me began to peel away, and I slowly started to shed the “oreo” in me. I set out on a mission to reconnect with my Black self. I befriended two sisters and right off the back I felt a sense of ease, understanding and relation. We were spiritually and universally connected.
I remember thinking, “wow, they(we) aren’t scary after all.” The closer and closer we became, the more I let my guard down. I took out the blonde hair helmet, trashed the green contacts, and I began feeling comfortable in my skin. I saw great beauty in my ebony sisters. The experiences I was having with my sisters was something that I never knew existed. All the images I had been shown in life didn’t picture young Black women laughing together, loving each other, and uplifting one another. I saw that like me, my sisters had strength, perseverance, power, and beauty. I realized I had this awesome gift, and that was the gift of being a Black woman.
Each day of happiness and bonding I had with my people, was a guide on how I could be free to love myself. The things I started to love about me were the same things I loved about my sisterhood. I no longer found them to be threatening. I felt love, inclusion, and acceptance, but I also came to them as I was. I didn’t talk a certain way, I didn’t pretend I was “super down.” I was myself. Awkward, funny, outgoing, and unwavering. I knew that I needed to accept my entire self. Speaking as I do, and acting how I act. Once I accepted me, others around me had no choice but to accept me. I no longer feared my sisters or my brothers. I made girlfriends with ladies who looked like me, struggled like me, achieved like me. I learned it’s the beauty that I have in me, that allows me to find the same beauty in my family. I love you all.