As my first post to this blog, I wanted to hit the ground running with a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As a Nigerian-American female, I have always noticed that I don’t act like the “typical” African- let alone the “typical” or better yet stereotypical dark-skinned girl.
It’s not that I never tried to connect with wider Black culture. I would watch the shows everyone watched and listen to the music everyone listened to. Sometimes around the Black kids in my school, I’d code switch, turning on the slang and then turning it off around non-Black people.
But as much as I tried, I just couldn’t seem to make a connection. Big Sean and Lil Wayne wasn’t something I could blast through my speakers. It was more My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and System of a Down. Rock and Pop music was my guilty pleasure. In secret, I’d jam out, but if any of my Black friends knew that I listened to Taylor Swift, I’d dig my own grave out of embarrassment.
The fact that I didn’t dress how society expected me to or talk how they assumed I did immediately made people try to calculate how Black or African I am. Your blackness is constantly measured or questioned by the “Black culture points” already set in stone by society. “Black culture points” are the praise and acceptance you receive when you know something that you “should” due to just the mere fact that you’re Black.
Due to the color of my skin, non-Black people assume I must automatically know every word to each new popular rap song. Just because I’m Nigerian, I need to be in touch with all the gossip and pop culture happening there.
“Wait, you haven’t listened to them? Are you even Nigerian?”
“You’re so white.”
“Wow, you’re such an oreo!”
“You’re the whitest black person I’ve ever met.”
I let the hurtful words get to me. I let others dictate how I saw the color of my skin and how I saw my personality. I was too Black to fit in with the white kids. Too white to fit in with the Black kids. Too American to fit in with the African kids. I didn’t belong anywhere. No matter how hard I tried to change myself, nothing ever got better. But you know what… jokes on them because I freaking love Oreos.
When I graduated high school, I had to sit down with myself. Look at who I was and just ask myself “Who do you want to be now?” Those people that made you feel smaller and lesser than are gone now. It’s just you. You are the beholder of your future and how you carry yourself. Are you going to let them continue to have a hold over you or are you going to let go?
So, as of June 2019, I decided to let go.
I decided to embrace everything that made me “white” and not care anymore. If I want to blast Twenty-One Pilots through my headphones, then I’ll turn that song up. Do I know who half the rappers are nowadays? Heck no, but that’s fine by me. Do I strive to dress like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion? No, I strive to dress like Zendaya’s character from Euphoria. I am proud of my melanin skin and I don’t need arbitrary “Black culture points” to prove that.
There is no need for me to have to justify my culture to people. I live for myself. I dress for myself. The things I enjoy watching or listening to is for my own joy and not for anyone else to comment on. I used to feel like an outsider, an outcast, but you want to know something great?
Being an outsider is fine with me, because I’ve accepted who I am.
As Black girls, we need to remember that. Our personalities aren’t surrounded by stereotypes. We are unique individuals in the way we act, the way we look, and even the way we identify ourselves. Look around at fellow Black girls and lift them up instead of tearing them down. Embrace each other’s differences. Embrace your differences. Don’t get me wrong, I have my days where I can hear the voices creep back up again, but I just have to repeat my favorite line from an inspirational woman.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” -Viola Davis from The Help
Art credits: @nvmwendy on Instagram