In response to my recent blog celebrating the unveiling of Dr. King’s monument on Sunday, August 28, some readers questioned how I could express genuine concern for the interests of black people when I am married to a white man. In other words, because I jumped the broom across the color threshold, I surrendered my membership to the race.
The above statement comes from an article I read by Janet Cohen called “Authentically Black,” and as I read the article, I felt as though I could relate to what she was saying. All of my life, my “blackness” has been questioned, and it’s getting to the point where my “blackness” has been considered to be nil. During my early years up until I went to the 10th grade, I was viewed as the “smart girl who talks white.” For the duration of that time, I attended predominantly Black schools, and although I looked like my peers, I was still different due to my vernacular and style of speech. On top of that, I was a fan of Brittany Spears, Jessica Simpson, and other well known pop artists at the time. I still had friends, and since I participated in many clubs and activities, my popularity expanded as the years went on. Yet, my “blackness” was questioned. As years went on, and the more I tried to prove I was “down,” the worse it became for me. This really took an effect when I went to a private boarding school during my 10th – 12 grade years. The “white washed” labeling deepened, and many of the people who I grew up with (including family members) started to view me as a “lost cause.” To them, I was and forever will be, on a different level. I will admit; as my love and interest for the Latin language, Greek philosophers, reversible chemical equations, and expounding my vocabulary grew, the declination of my friendships plummeted. My aesthetics didn’t matter because when I opened my mouth and spoke, to them it represented a contrast. To them, that contrast was unacceptable.
When I entered undergrad, I assumed things would change because I was about to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU). They didn’t. I quickly learned that all HBCUs aren’t viewed equally to others (especially African-Americans), and matriculating through the consecutively highest ranking HBCU in America didn’t deposit anything to my Black card bank account. To me, Spelman represented an institution of Black women who were like me…intelligent, goal-oriented, prideful, and wanted to make something of herself. However, to the outside Black community, Spelman was an institution of spoiled, wealthy, stuck up Black women who sounded White on the phone. Out of all of those adjectives I used to describe my fellow Spelman sisters and myself, the “prideful” one is always misinterpreted. It was during undergrad that I also learned that when you’re a Black woman and prideful, that’s not a good thing. It’s as if to say, you don’t know your place, and the place that Spelmanites are affiliated with are within a place of “whiteness.” Prior to getting to know me, it was automatically assumed that my pedestal was too high and that I needed to bring it down just because of the institution I attended. Sad to say, but it is to this day that I receive the most flack from African-American women who didn’t attend Spelman (Black women who aren’t from America or who come from a culture that isn’t American find favor in it…I guess because education is valued more so in their cultures). This might stem from envy or just an emotion coming from an ignorant place of the unknown. It used to bother me, but now I’m oblivious to it. Instead, I let my life do the talking for me, and if you asked me, I’d say it’s speaking very well.
That brings us to now. My “blackness” has been questioned for the majority of my life, and it surly hasn’t stopped with the addition of Joseph. I’m aware that my “blackness” has been viewed to be diluted, and I still receive shocking looks when people find out about my past and then find out that I’m engaged to a White man. It’s as if to say, a Black woman whose mother fought in the Civil Rights Movement, whose father helped to integrate major business corporations, and who graduated from an HBCU is not supposed to marry a White man. The inquiries about me become more abundant when I speak of literature such as The Pedagogy of The Oppressed, The Souls of Black Folks; or when I verbalize the racial disparities in the various facets of America such as education, health care, and employment. To them, a Black woman who is with a White man isn’t supposed to speak of these things. It’s as if it’s a limited language and shouldn’t be spoken from my kind. My mere existence is a contradiction.
Marrying a White man revokes my Black card.
I guess I exceeded my limit via selling out *sarcasm*