|The Black Police! They’re coming to get you…
And they look just like you!
I went home for the holidays. A pleasant dinner-table conversation with my parents about the widespread dangers of fracking lead to an argument with my Daddy that ended with me shouting: I CARE ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE AND I’M TIRED OF TRYING TO PROVE IT TO YOU! The apology from my father that followed consisted of many salient and emphatic points, the best of which was ‘I know you care about Black people. I know it.’ It also included this little factoid: ‘One of my friends said you sound like a Valley Girl in your video and I told him about himself.’
Let’s back up. I work at a place where staffers were asked to talk about their favorite things on video. If there is a camera, I am there, so I was. The video was featured on our homepage. My parents found out. Being parents, they
bragged shared their joy with their friends. The above was some dude’s response.
I was a little pissed. First of all, I think I sound like a passionate, excited, college educated girl who has a good job and wants to keep it. Second of all, grown people should be beyond acting like the Black Police. College educated Black people who have the nerve to associate themselves with my parents especially, should be crafty enough to mask their hate in a more creative way. Third of all …. I was mad that I was mad. I was supposed to be beyond this.
I ‘discovered myself‘ in the summer after sophomore year of high school. I had been trying to fit in with people … cool people, Black people … Cool Black people … since I was in fifth grade. It was a very lovely, summer day when a nearly humiliating and completely terrifying acting exercise somehow brought me to the realization that the people who saw the real me, really, actually, liked me, and the people who couldn’t see that tended to be RAGING ASSHOLES (sorry mom).
So I decided to be myself on purpose. That meant wearing the weird clothes that I’d always wanted to. It meant trying out for my dream role in the school musical, and wearing the biggest, most fruit-baring hat I could find once I’d been cast. It was wearing my traveling choir uniform’s rosette as a headband and fashioning leg warmers out of old white denim and rubberbands and drawing on the inside of my jeans and wearing my pants inside out because the pattern looked cooler that way. It was going back to natural after a year of trying to fit in with the regular girls and getting uncomfortable when track folks started calling me ‘good hair’. It was being smart without being ashamed. It was being a runner and a scholar and a geek and an actress and a singer and a Christian athlete and a leader of Black people sh++ unapologetically.
I was done being me on other people’s terms. More importantly, I was done defining my Blackness in other people’s terms.
|This is mine. And I deserve it (not just because my credit’s good, yo.).
The reaction was that of a typical t/ween movie. The people I’d spent 6 years trying earn the respect of all of a sudden did… and I didn’t care. I valued my friends more for who they were, more than I thought I could, and bopped along for the rest of high school and college with the confidence that despite the rocky road that had brought me there, I turned out to have a pretty boss personality (believe me- the girls you want to hang out with are the ones who didn’t turn pretty until they were 18. Years of humility and self deprecation make for a hell of a scathing wit).
*Cut to today* I feel hella Black. And despite anyone’s preconceived notions, I am. Actively. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that to be a fact. Unfortunately though, I am learning that once-in-a-lifetime transformations and rebirths and … YES THIS IS WHO I AM experiments aren’t just once in a lifetime. I need reminding and faith and confidence and spurs to action that make me feel strong in being myself, all over again, and every so often.
The Black Police have been trying to nab me for one slight or another from the moment I stepped into grade school, but this reminder was all I needed to elude them once again.
My Blackness is defined by my knowledge of history, my procurement of facts and my deliberate love of all people of color.
Even for those busters who can’t see it.
PS: As my FAVORITE NEW BESTIE REP MARCIA FUDGE
says “The next time you want to hate, look in the mirror and hate ya-self!” (Seriously, this is the best thing that has been recorded in modern times.)