Is brown and a bit cubicular. Sometimes I try to white wash it but run out of paint and it remains undone and the dark is still present.
This is the box of my body, the darkness that is my skin and the whiteness that lends itself to give me the “latte” color skin a customer at Starbucks once told me I have. Sometimes I write a reminder on my palm that says “BLACK” so I don’t forget because no one else seems to.
The thing is that I grew up always knowing that I’m the “good” kind of black, the docile one, the one that knows her place, the “white” one. The explanation for this being that I’m acceptable because I am educated, do not use Ebonics on a regular basis, and am not “loud.” Yes, I am using a lot of “quotation” marks to pick out the stereotypical concept of blackness and what it is to be black.
As I child I must have forgotten to pick up my copy of Get your black on because instead I began to use proper English, showed up in my classes on time, and… didn’t enjoy listening to Hip Hop. In recent months I’ve had increasing conversation with other black and biracial women that have also been told they talk or act “white” and we posed this question to ourselves and others. What is acting?
The questions people ask
I was asked by a friends Mother just weeks ago how I felt about people acting black.
My first response was that I just don’t give a damn because for me the art of acting [insert culture] means that one is acting out a stereotype. Acting black = speaking in Ebonics, wearing sports jerseys, listening to hip hop, eating barbecue chicken, and enjoying stand up comedy . Acting white = using proper English, wearing form fitting clothes, listening to Indie Rock favorites, and according to the hilarious blog Stuff White People Like, Coffee and Facebook. Do I have it right? According to these two lists I must be white. I also like math, does that make me Asian?
The thing is, is that black and white are not actions, they are indeed still colors that we have assigned to a set of skin tones. People seem to not be able to differentiate actions from colors.
While one person might assign me white by my actions, a retail worker defines me by my skin tone and follows me around the store. Is there a button I can buy that says, “assigned white by 93% of people that know me,” while the other 7% is my slightly ghetto side, so that I’m not watched and followed so closely?
Nope. Guess what? By any standard I am still black, though “acceptable” once I’ve spoken.
What I am getting at is that I’m not “acting” anything nor do I think that white boys in jerseys are “acting.” I think they are being and living in whatever skin feels right to them. Identification does not come from pigmentation but from what fits right, kind of like the genes, oops I mean the jeans one ends up buying. Are these people identifying with the culture of [insert] or the stereotype of [inserty again]? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but one knows when they’ve met an educated black man that is entrenched in his black culture but is still called “white” that there is a serious disconnect between the reality of race and the collective misinformed racial consciousness.
If someone decides to appropriate a racial stereotype, I cannot be angry because I cannot justify a reason to be angry at something that is superficial, but if someone tells me I’m acting white again, I might just have to take uh beeotch down.