My mom is black and Filipino and my dad is Creole, but to me, they’re just black. I’ve never knew anything outside of the black community, and learned nothing else about the rest of my culture. I grew up, partly in South Central LA, living in Inglewood. I’ve also lived in Echo Park and Vegas. I knew I was different, after hearing, “What are you?” or “What you mixed with?” for so long. From a young age, you start to question your identity. Here’s my experience, growing up as a mixed, black woman.
I kept trying to prove my blackness. To be accepted in the black community means more than DNA. Even though you’re literally black, you still find ways to prove yourself. Culturally, you are expected to attend black churches, speak the slang, watch Tyler Perry, attend cookouts, know how to Dougie or Electric Slide, and your mom is supposed to use the hot comb and use old sayings, like, “Boy, don’t you talk like that in my house!” or “I ain’t ya lil friend!” Unfortunately, my mom never used terms like that. Having light skin with “white people hair” and looking Latina makes you more of an outcast. You’re a minority within a minority. Having black family members doesn’t justify your blackness, because if you don’t “look it,” or live the experience, you’re not in the club
“I’m black” is the wrong answer. In highschool, I was teased for being mixed. I remember the black girls asked, “What are you?” and when I responded, they all laughed in my face. I didn’t really know what else to say, because regardless, it was funny to them that I said it. Even today, when I’m approached by strangers, “I’m black,” turns into an argument, a joke, or me giving a history lesson.
Proving that I was black meant telling the world that I used to live in the hood. They had to know I grew up, partly in Crenshaw, Leimert Park, or Inglewood. I had to let them know I listened to black music like Al Jarreau, Earth Wind and Fire, or Musiq Soulchild. I’ve spent my whole life trying to prove I was one of them.
A part of me feels like I’m pretending- It’s apparent that there is some sort of European bloodline in my family. On my dad’s side, my aunts look white. People stare at us like we’re creatures. It’s awkward, because I know we don’t “fit” the category. I feel like I’m offending somebody else who is “really black.” Most black women have a far worse experience than I do. As a semi-privileged light skinned, black woman, I feel like my experience isn’t as traumatizing as another black woman. I know there are black women who’ve been racially targeted for being “too dark,” having kinky hair, or being “too ghetto.” Because I can’t relate to those experiences, I feel like I don’t have a right to claim my blackness. Even though I know I’m black, I feel like an imposture.
At the end of the day, I know who I am. I know how society sees me, and I accept that I am everything at once and nothing at the same time. However the world chooses to see me, I figured out my purpose. As a human, my purpose is to love myself and be myself, regardless of who doesn’t approve.