I’ve been hearing that little statement since I was younger.
“You don’t act black!”
And my little mind was there wondering, hell isn’t black just a skin color? How does one “act black.” Didn’t take me long to learn that “acting black” was actually a thing, indeed.
All over TV and the block. You weren’t really a black boy unless you talked with a heavy accent and spent a lot of time picking fights. You weren’t a black teenage young man unless your entire wardrobe consisted of fitted caps, wifebeaters, sagging pants, and Jordans, if you could afford them. Hair all kinds of not-combed and just always running. With a blunt in hand. You weren’t a little black girl unless your momma had your hair hot combed to a crisp or imprisoned in a hundred braids, which you swung back and forth as –like your brother– you picked on just about everybody you could get your hands on….something you continued to do as a teenage young woman, which ended up with a lot of weave on the ground, and your expensive stilletto nails broken. Okay fine, even if you weren’t that dramatic, you still had to have some level of attitude, and a habit of buying only the most expensive things you could afford to qualify as black. Unless your bag had MK, Gucci, or some other acceptable label somewhere on the surface, your black status was revoked, honey!
Talking clearly and without an accent was out of the question. Clothes that actually fit (not dropping down, hanging, falling off, or on the flip side, so tight or ill-fitted so as to look just plain tacky) seemed to also be out. No line up? No weave?
Oh, you’re not nearly black enough.
Did you like to read? Found music other than rap and hip-hop cool to listen to? Wore makeup to enhance your unique features (not contour them out of existence)? Wanted to be something other than the next Rihanna or Michael Jordan?
All of those and more, sweetpea. Black status revoked again.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been curious. I wanted to know everything I could about this big, beautiful world we live in. If there was a book you didn’t want me to read, you would have to hide it. I read everything. My mother encouraged me to soak it all up. It was never too much or enough. I wanted to know things. As I got older and made friends, I learned very quickly that the black stereotype doesn’t look like that at all. Liking books is grounds for immediate disqualification as being “black enough.” Worse, I liked math too. And science. English was always my best subject, so although I knew slang terms, that was it–I knew about them and how to use them, but they weren’t the limit of my entire vocabulary.
So from a young age, I’ve been what hood niggas and rats mistakenly like to call an Oreo. A true Oreo is a black person who holds self-hating, white supremacist values. However, when a stereotypical black persons says you’re an Oreo, they mean they notice how you talk. How you dress and how you move. They see who you are and who you want to be, and they call it “trying to be white.” Hence the Oreo analogy.
Problem is, I’ve seen more than enough screwed up, cracked-out, imperfect white people in my life to ever associate the concepts of respectability, propriety, and class with their race exclusively.
Not over my ancestor’s bodies. Nope.
Tell me I’m not black enough and I’ll just laugh in your sad little face. You don’t know who you are. You never delved into the hidden pages of history to get a glimpse of who and where you really came from. All you know is what has been fed to you–the sickening propaganda of a people who don’t have your best interest at heart.
Our ancestors were kings, queens, warriors, merchants, and politicians. We built many of the structures that stump and puzzle even our era’s best researchers and scientists. Our genes are so strong that the children of anyone who procreates with us are called by our name, our race. No matter what has happened to us, we only multiply and our talents span every field and industry.
Not black enough, you say.
You don’t know what blackness is, honey. It’s not the foolishness you’re watching on BET.