“But like, you’re not really black. You’re basically a white girl!”
And the cackling ensues.
This is a sentence I’ve heard so many times I’ve become numb to its ignorance. I am a 24-year-old black (no, not “African-American”) young woman…living in Texas. I grew up part of the 1%, creating an awkward frequency between my social-economic and racial identity. And to the PC Police, as well as the actual police profiled in the media, take a seat. As much as we would like to slip on our rose-colored glasses, and pretend that there is no correlation between class, race and presumed stereotypes; there is.
“Black-ish” is a term I totally stole from the ABC Network. Coincidentally, stealing is something I actually do not do though I’m not sure if department store managers who follow me would agree. “Black-ish” describes someone who is black and lives in a middle or upper-middle class environment, or someone who mostly interacts with white people thus experiencing a cultural appropriation that may clash with common ideas of what “acting black” or “being black” means. Or in a shorter, insensitive breath, it’s being an “Oreo.” A word that was chanted on the playground in grade school.
Alas, this is what it’s like to be … black-ish like me.
When people ask if I have any white in me, I always repurpose the same crass, 90s joke; “No, but I’ve had white in me.” My parents would be proud. My craving for white meat likely started around the time Aaron Carter guest-starred on Lizzie McGuire. If I had known that he would wind up a bankrupted “rapper” tweeting Hilary Duff weird messages, I wouldn’t have plastered my walls with his face. Oh, to be young and dumb. The two meaningful relationships I’ve been in were with white men, and I have been on dates with literally every race and most religions. (Beggars can’t be choosers.)
I will offer that dating — no matter what your race — is hard and frustrating. Dating while blackish can be a little trickier.
First, I honestly cannot remember the last time I went on a first date and race didn’t come up. “So have you ever dated a white person before?” Don’t flatter yourself. “So does your dad care that you’re on a date with a white guy right now?” No. And besides, I don’t ask my “Pappy” to screen my dates. “So what’s it like being in an interracial relationship?” This is the one valid question, because it’s fair and could likely be met with various answers depending on your own experience. To be frank, it’s no different. Sure the black men I’ve gone on dates with can relate to a couple of more things and get a few more jokes, but for the most part, I am a product of my environment. Ironically, the only real obstacle is usually him/ his parents thinking there will be obstacles. Breaking news: my boyfriends have never been called “n-word lovers”, had rocks thrown at them while holding my hand, or experienced me “going ghetto” during a fight. This may be the lamest thing you read today (or ever) but character doesn’t have a race, and I hope we’re all dating someone because of their character. I have never once felt like a boyfriend didn’t understand or couldn’t connect with me emotionally or spiritually because of our races. If I could pick any bones, it would be; men come in with “forbidden fruit” expectations. Just like I’m not going into a date expecting Zach Morris, please do not go into a date with a black girl expecting Sasha Fierce I Will Snap My Fingers And Talk Lyke Dis. I’m wearing a Bauble Bar necklace right now for Christ’s sake.
At times, it can feel like I must express particular thoughts in order to be true to my race. Case in point: the shootings that have been happening across the country with young black men. Yes, I do believe thousands and thousands of cases are racially-charged, but I also believe sometimes you have an asshole that has the deadly combination of a power complex and a license to kill. No pun intended, but I don’t think all of these shootings are black and white. I don’t always feel safe voicing these opinions; sometimes, I subconsciously think “being black” and “staying true” means siding with the majority. It’s a double-edge sword; you’re either playing the race card or being an Uncle Tom. Unfortunately, when blackish, you can’t just be an educated person with some controversial ideas.
Similarly to biracial people, I always, always feel I am too “black” for white people, and too “white” for black people. If you were to scroll through my Instagram, you would see a United Colors of Benetton ad (with a couple of white extras thrown in the back.) My whole life I had black peers accuse me of being an Uncle Tom or wannabe white girl. Ironically, I think black girls are just as quick if not quicker to isolate me in social settings. The majority of my friends are white, not as a status symbol but as the result of commonalities. I like many “basic bitch” things; I consider brunch the most important meal of the day, I have scented candles, and own a Lana Del Rey flower headband thing. If you want to join me, join me. Perhaps from naivety, I developed the previously mentioned notion; I make personal connections on character not race.
On the flip-side, being the Token Black Friend comes with disadvantages. You instantly have to fill-in for Reverend Al Sharpton, and speak for all black people as a spokesperson. All political questions are lobbied to me—dude, we are having mojitos and eggs, please don’t ask me why white can’t use the “n-word,” but blacks can. And I want to just have friendly FAQ sheet; yes, I can wash my hair with regular shampoo; no, I don’t know if all black men have large penises; yes, this is all my real hair; I know, I do “talk like a white girl.” If you have any more ignorant questions, please email me. Thank you.