You aren’t black enough
Middle school. When breasts started to appear like piled playdoh and boys showed their happiness below the waist. Bra-strap popping was yet to be called sexual harassment. Everyone denied their love for Barney, and claimed they stopped watching what comes out of the bottomless big purple bag. Awkwardness was laughed at. Odd when cracking voices, floppy appendages and crater skin was the norm.
I was the shy, nerdy little black girl. Oreo was my nick name more often than I would like. Never did like the cream between the black wafers. I always scraped it out.
“Are you black?” said the gangly black teenager as he rose from his seat. Bus antics as usual. A walk down the aisle often led to trouble. No flowers at the end, just eighth graders who thought they were cool.
“Do I look black to you?” I said.
“You don’t act like or talk like a black person,” he said.
Apparently, I was walking around in blackface, jigging and jiving. I hadn’t watched enough Friday to learn how to speak like an upstanding black person. No…to be black meant being dumber instead of smarter.
You aren’t hood enough
“Yo ma, you are too soft,” said the Brooklynite. He was a co-worker of mine at the time. Haling from the infamous borough New York that births hustlers, he constantly ragged on Atlanta and constantly dreamed of escaping home. Embodying the stereotypical black boy storyline, he was raised by a single mother and attended college on an athletic scholarship.
He had taken an iPhone left behind by a guest where we worked. Lost and found to him were for suckers. If you don’t want it to be found by me, don’t lose it in the first place was his motto.
“What if someone needs it,” I said. “It’s not yours.”
Apparently, I hadn’t learned the hood mantra of survival of the fittest. Take first, ask questions later. Surburbia had spoiled me.
You aren’t African enough
“You don’t look African, your complexion is too nice,” said the Jamaican bus driver.
“Yeah…people tell me that all the time,” I said.
So confused. It wouldn’t be the first time my Africanness was called into question. We chatted for a while as we made our way back to the mall stop from Atlanta. The other commuters stayed clicking away on their cellphones, or slept as the tiredness of work finally seeped in. His comment was one that continues to baffle me as to how Africans are viewed, even in the age of television and the internet. I don’t know how an African is supposed to look.
Apparently, I’m supposed to be one hue. Blacker than black. Forget all the several complexions and hues that make up the beauty of African descendants.
Enough is enough.
image by: Osei (Ozzy)