The Snob

How to Excel Yourself Out of the Community In Ten Easy Steps (Unconventional Wisdom)

The Snob at 20 after winning a scholarship while in college. Faces blurred to protect people I don’t know or remember anymore.And I just want to know
Where the fuck did everyone else go
Life picked them all off like flies
Shot for the skies, fell some place between hell and shit
Why did they get to quit
And I had to slug on?

From the poem, “I Miss You.” Read the rest here.

There was never a time when I didn’t know I was going to college. I never knew it was an option to not attend. My mother started early with my education, teaching me reading, writing and math before I started public school and was a regular volunteer at all functions. Everything they did was to make me as well-rounded as possible while at the same time nourishing my gifts in the opposite of the way gross poverty had starved theirs. There were dance, art and piano lessons. Vacation Bible School and literary competitions.

I had a good childhood.

Unfortunately and unbeknownst to all of us, my parents were preparing me for my eventual excelling right out of Blackland in ten easy steps! While the self-segregated black elite talked almost proudly about being The-One-Onlys in Monday’s stories on Martha’s Vineyard, I was a One-Only, only I called it “The Lonely Onlies.” As in there was no sense of pride for me at all to excel my way to the top and see that so many people from the old neighborhood had not made it there with me … or had made it, but were thousands of miles away, being a Lonely Only somewhere else.

More after the jump.

I went from a childhood in an all black suburb of St. Louis to an adulthood in some of the least diverse parts of the country (Midland, TX and Bakersfield, Calif., respectively). But I even felt abandoned and alone in college and I went to Southern Illinois University which was filled with black students from St. Louis, East St. Louis and Chicago. But being a driven black nerd with “intellectually snobby” tendencies can make you positive that one is the loneliest number that you will ever do.

Step #1: Educate — The first step to successfully emancipating yourself from your own community starts with a good education. This does not mean that there aren’t other educated blacks. There are many. The problem is if you do this early enough as a child you will likely go through nice, emotionally scarring experiences like being rejected by other black children for being smart. Then you will, in turn, carry this hurt with you for the rest of your life, making you suspicious of other blacks, worried that they are judging you. I know that being beat up and called a nerd and having no friends at nine leading to anxiety attacks and chronic psycho-symptomatic illnesses didn’t affect me AT ALL.

Step #2: Integrate — Even though I grew up in a black suburb, I went to a school run by a white district. This is pretty impossible to avoid for most suburban blacks (not that going to an all black run school would necessarily be better). While I had many wonderful teachers in elementary school who happened to be white and other good teachers who were black, I had to deal with a black administrator who thought the best way to motivate black kids was to tell them how terrible they were and to punish all for the actions of the few. Nothing like having the view that black is bad be reinforced by one of your own every day at school. She, the administrator, was trying to impress the mostly white and male brass who saw our school as a “problem school.” I thought our school was great. So did the other kids. But if you hear you’re terrible long enough you either embrace it and become terrible or you make the false assumption that a whiter and even more integrated school would be better. Which takes us to step #3 …

Step #3: Separate — At 13 my family left our black neighborhood to move to a Tony white suburb deeper into St. Louis’ North County. (This suburb is now more integrated, but when we first moved here, blacks were scarce.) There, for the first time I felt the sting of rejection from not just the few blacks there, but from white kids as well. In the case of the other black kids I was now not “black enough” despite the fact that I was from what they called “the hood” and came from “the ghetto school.” (The “hood” has manicured lawns and skateboarders?) The isolation that was my junior high years really made me start to despise other young people, regardless of their racial background. I still though clung to blackness, even hanging out with black people I had little in common with well into college. I was desperate to have black friends, but had a hard time occasionally finding ones with a brain after I left Florissant, MO.

Step #4: Graduate — Graduating from college represents a sort of point of no return in my excelling out of the community. I went from seeing tons of black people every day at school to seeing zero at my first three jobs in advertising and journalism.

Step #5: Capitulate — Since I’m not made of granite and love people, eventually I mellowed out on my “MUST HAVE BLACK FRIENDS” mission and began to hang out with whomever life gave me. This was deliciously freeing. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel burdened with carrying some one-woman racial cause. I stopped thinking that I had to constantly “represent,” and just became “Danielle.”

Step #6: Commiserate — Opening my mind to a more diverse group of friends led me to embracing different cultures, music and religious ideas. Unfortunately when I sometimes tried to share these things with my own I got a lot of side-eyes. My insecurity about being judged would return and I would retreat to just hanging out with tons of white, brown and Asian people. I could especially relate to Asian-Americans, as they were often from families who were just as strict and driven as my own. Despite this though, I still missed blackness terribly …

Step #7: Eviscerate — Therefore the Great Purge began. Up until this point I’d been the walking personification of WEB DuBois’ “twoness.” I was of two minds about everything. There was Danielle, the open-minded, opinionated free thinker who loved black people even though she really couldn’t relate to some of them anymore and there was “Black” Danielle, who was defined by her racial identity and felt incredibly guilty over owning David Bowie albums. One of those Danielle’s was going to have to be eliminated so the other could live her life. I’ll let you guess who got the axe. Ground control to Major Tom, anyone?

Step #8: Perambulate — After you’ve purged your “black first, me second” mentality you may find yourself walking away as fast as you can from things that are stereotypically black. I ran away from Kwanzaa. I’m not proud of it, but … gosh. I just can’t get with that.

Step #9: Consolidate — Once you’ve separated and walked away, you have to put yourself back together. The person you form will basically be who you are for the rest of your life. I became a woman who is proud of being black, but isn’t solely defined by it. And while it was/is freeing to just rock your Keyisha Cole with your Lady GaGa and your Rilo Kiley, you never really stop missing the “good ol’ days” of playing Miss Mary Mack in the backyard. You pine for old black history plays and Negro spirituals. You reinvest in parts of black culture you love … even if those parts aren’t the most popular ones. Like lugging around the Harlem Renaissance Reader, owning jazz records or quoting Paul Lawrence Dunbar poems. You’re a square, but you love it. But will others accept it? Especially when you work and live in a mostly white world?

Step #10: Assimilate — Compete assimilation is the last and final step. I have never fully completed this step because assimilation would mean giving up the parts of blackness that I love and abandoning Negroes under the assumption that we’re a “lost cause.” I’m not of that mind. Probably never will be. But I’ve known people who’ve reached step ten and feel at peace about it. They like saying they don’t consider themselves to be black, just human beings or that color isn’t an issue for them. They enjoy being the only black person in the room. For the love of Turnip greens and Bobby Rush, may I never reach step 10.

Agree? Disagree? Share your comments and opinions below. And if you’re so inclined, you can write the counter-argument to this post, and we’ll print it here on The Black Snob. This story is part of a series on interesting, unusual, funny and unconventional takes on issues. To see the full list of issues that will be covered, click here. To read past stories, click here.

Standard

51 thoughts on “How to Excel Yourself Out of the Community In Ten Easy Steps (Unconventional Wisdom)

  1. spiderlgs says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Though my experience was different, growing up in the "hood" and eventually attending a diverse high school, I definitely feel you on 4-10 and sometimes I feel like they work as a cycle depending on the predominant culture I find myself in. After graduation I found myself solidly between 9 and 10, then going from a predominantly black job to a predominantly white one a few years later, I found myself working to readjust back to what was really me and reaching out to those things that tickle my fancy, even when they aren’t culturally readily available. Thank you for articulating the experience and internal struggle so well.

  2. Great post, as usual.I definitely have gone through many of these steps. But I think the one great thing that I had with me was a deep knowledge and understanding of Black history and a pride in myself, which kept me lifted up when so many tried to tear me down. Right now I’m comfortable with who I am, which is an amalgamation of lots of different things and influences. I dont feel the pressure of carrying the Black community on my shoulders, but I still feel like I’m a part of the community as well as others. I’m just me, and letting go of other folks expectations made me a much happier person.

  3. devessel says:

    Snob, dear,I think you may just have articulated the life journey of many a fellow ‘Only’. I stopped wondering why certain people would take special time out of their lives to question my blackness when I heard the criticisms leveled against our President. Requesting permission to reprint–your beautiful outline could save a kid from years of self-doubt!

  4. polticallyincorrect says:

    I never thought of myself from seperating from blackness but ghettoness. So I really never had a probably with it. The only way you become really out of touch is extreme wealth, not just education

  5. DJ says:

    I’ve been following your thoughts for a while now, and enjoy reading your perspective. It is so different than mine! I think it is interesting that as a white female, I have never thought as myself in the same order as you do/did. I am & always have been "me" first, then female, then white. The whiteness is almost inconsequential to my identity–except when I am in a room full of black people. Hmmm.. Do you think minorities will always feel this way? Will we ever come to a point that we don’t "feel" a color? Do you ever want to?

  6. devessel says:

    @politically incorrect:Therein lies the rub. Some would argue that one can not be authentically black without embracing ‘ghettoness’, which, quite frankly, must mean I’m white because that was not my origin, nor experience (nor that of my peers). Some would (and did) argue that unless your formative years echoed ‘Good Times’ instead of ‘The Cosby Show’ you were not authentically black. Most of us have heard the complaints about the fact that The Cosby Show represented a fantasy existence. I personally take umbrage with anyone who would negate my existence as fantasy. Then the question becomes what does ‘out of touch’ really mean? If ‘blackness’ is such a broad and diverse construct, then how can one truly be defined as out of touch with it?

  7. Danielle Belton says:

    @ DJIt can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a bit like being Italian or French and being very proud to be part of that culture, but because of the history of racism in this country there’s another edge to it that can be limiting and suffocating if you allow it to be that way. I think eventually, as race relations improve and as more and more blacks succeed post the Civil Rights movement, the psychological burden will lesson for some. But it takes time. Personally, I enjoyed my time in California where I essentially took a break from worrying about all this and just enjoyed life, but it is hard to separate yourself from your racial identity when often it is the outside world that defines you as black only first.

  8. devessel says:

    Hi DJ: Your musings echoed mine <with one difference>, until I reached the tender age of 10, when I ended up in a school with kids from neighborhoods different from mine. I then began to experience what Danielle described above. To your point, I wonder if you are familiar with the oft-quoted essay about the ‘Invisible Knapsack’ of white privilege… http://ow.ly/fDyc

  9. polticallyincorrect says:

    To me out of touch is more class not race. I just don’t seek validation from folks who don’t even have their own house in order and that almost goes hand in hand with the blackness police. After high school I really stopped paying attention to them.

  10. It is a class thing. Class doesn’t necessarily mean mo money as we know. We need to just establish our own colonies, cadres, of our own. I don’t call it moving "out" or "up," but rather evolution. F–k the black police. Natr Turner.

  11. OneChele says:

    Co-signing with devessel. I distinctly remember being in a Sociology of Race and Gender class in college where the white female professor stood in front of all 300 of us (large state school) and said the Cosby Show was some "disenfranchised" Black person’s dream of a reality and completely unrelatable to the "true" Black experience. She then preceeded to call my name and asked me to stand up and share my tales of the Ghetto. (seriously!)Yes, I was the only Black person in the room. I was so angry, I turned bright red and literally had to do the "count to 10 and breathe" exercise before standing up. I said, "I know about as much about the ghetto as my friend here knows about the trailer park… which is nothing. My father is a doctor, my mother a CPA and no, we’ve never been on welfare or stood in line for government cheese. The fact that you don’t realize that we exist actually says more about you and your inability to teach this class than me and my reality." I stormed out of the class and never went back. She gave me an A for the semester. At any rate, that kind of ignorance is just as frustrating to me as when people of my own race think I’m not "down" or "Black" enough for listening to certain music, living in a certain neighborhood or speaking a certain way. Finally threw up my hands and decided to just be me. If I want Public Enemy in the same playlist as Maroon 5, it’s my world. Imma do me…P.S. Snob, on behalf of Texas I apologize retroactively for Midland

  12. dukedraven says:

    As I get older–and I’m very close to 50, although it doesn’t feel like it–the more I accept myself. I’ve always been somewhat of an odd duck and I don’t even think about it anymore. Not much introspection on that level. I’m very George Bush in this regard.

  13. This is a situation that I’ve witnessed grow worse over the last decades. I pretty much grew up in a Cosby existence with a Good Times awareness. I was weird and not cool because I too listened to Bowie and The Police but I listened to Parliment and Chaka as well. Black culture had not yet been defined by the media as ghetto culture so my blackness was never questioned, only my coolness, which I could care less about. I remember distinctly getting the unspoken message that having white friends was no longer acceptable by the time I was in 7th grade in my integrated Catholic School. I had always had white and black friends but as puberty hit, the question of loyalty to the race reared its head. I remember quietly distancing myself from my Italian best friend. I could not be seen as a sell out. By the time I reached my snotty and upperclass but integrated high school, lines were clearly drawn. I was not cool enough for the Jack and Jill set but I best not become too friendly with the white people. I did and I got the sideways looks. I have always found black people to be more close-minded and unaccepting about anything that’s not deemed appropriate for black people and I just couldn’t be boxed in like that. Mind you, this was a highly intellectual school so it was never a question of being too smart or "talking white." I was supposed to listen to the same music, dress and act the same way as the acceptable blacks. I didn’t so I was out. In college, I clung tighter to my idenity and delved into black history and culture. Of course, this still made me weird but my blackness was never questioned. Now I watch my daughter travel the same path. Ghetto culture is what defines black culture in our integrated suburb and I am constantly battling to educate other children about the reality of this since my daughter knows it. And she has mostly white friends. She wants more black friends but, she’s smart, she has locs ( can’t even go into the whole natural hair issue here) and she doesn’t listen to Lil Wayne. This makes her uncool and largely unacceptable by most of the black kids she knows. I think class has something to do with it but it’s largely an issue on the narrow confines that black people typically define themselves with. My husband had the same isolating experience at the small, mostly white, Minnosota college he went to. He didn’t fit into any of the defined black groups so he had only white friends, which he’s still angry about. Neither of us asimmilate because it’s not in out make up. We love our people and our culture. We don’t love the ignorance and painful exclusionary tactics. All I can say is that there is always another black person somewhere who is experiencing the same things and has broad interests, you just have to find them.

  14. Monie says:

    You know I hear stories like this all the time but I never experienced being ostracized by other Black kids for doing well in school. I went to public schools in N.Y. and then private schools and all had significant Black student populations. All through school the Black kids that did well were treated well by the other Black kids. I don’t remember anyone ever equating doing well in school with ‘acting White’.I like you Danielle was taught to read, write and count before first grade. So when I arrived at school I excelled and continued to throughout my school years. I wonder why my experience was so different about this? Whenever I hear stories of smart Black kids being given a hard time by other Black kids I never get it. Anyway I’m wondering if I’m the only one who while excelling academically was accepted by the general Black student population?

  15. Lisa J says:

    I feel you Snob. This echoes my experience in many ways, but except for a year of pre-school, which I don’t remember, I’ve always lived in mostly white neighborhoods and gone to white schools. Never felt "cool enough" for the few black kids in my area with a few exceptions. I tried to not think about race, but as I’ve aged, it gets harder and harder. I’ve always liked my classic rock though and NO BODY will ever take that away from me. I used to doubt myself but now I know I am just as authentically black as anyone else and I will always be black (which no matter what music I like, or activities I like America will never mistake me for anything but) and the "black police" hold no sway over me. Then again, I have more white friends than black and sometimes that troubles me. Right now I’m thinking of trying to join a sorority just to get more black folks in my life. @OneChedle, that is amazing, yet not suprising about your class in college. So f-ed up that someone so clueless taught the class. So did you just get the assignments from somone else and send them in, or did she just give you an A as an apology for her withering ignorance?

  16. thelady says:

    @ OneChele, that is an incredible story, glad you set her straightAs for the black police, well I grew up in a working class household but I decided I wanted to go away to college at 9 after a school field trip to a private liberal arts college which was shangri la in my eyes. My parents grew up in poverty but they always read to us and took us to the libraries. I was a quiet shy nerd and my sensible mother stayed within our budget and did not buy me the latest expensive in style shoes and clothes. I never fit in and eventually I gave up on conforming. I’ve always followed my own interest. If someone disapproves or accuses me of acting white that just lets me know to stay away from them. Even in college there were the black police who thought there was something wrong with you if had non black friends. As an engineering major I was often the only black or female in a class so I made friends with white males. Later I learned that 2 out 3 of my white male friends were gay. Maybe we could sense each others outsider status. So I had my engineering friends and my black female friends from the college prep program.

  17. politicallyincorrect says:

    Monie as a fellow NYer, I never heard much of the acting white thing, where I lived it was more of a behavior than achievements. But in NYC school those who have such attitudes against achievement don’t generally come to school anyway, hence the 50% HS drop out rate in NYC.

  18. d says:

    Danielle this is one of my favorite posts to date. I’m gonna print this and post it in my study/sewing/tea/hibernation room. You are describing my experience to the letter. I was taught to read, write, and count before I attended grade school too. I’m going through steps 9 and 10 right now! I guess you could say I’m a 9.5. 😛

  19. @DJ, who posted "I think it is interesting that as a white female, I have never thought as myself in the same order as you do/did. I am & always have been "me" first, then female, then white. The whiteness is almost inconsequential to my identity–except when I am in a room full of black people.": Because our own (white) culture is dominant, we don’t notice it unless we’re in a setting where it’s NOT dominant (e.g., a room full of black people). It’s like thinking "I don’t have an accent", until all of a sudden you go across country and people start making fun of your accent. Of course you have an accent, and of course our whiteness defines many things about us, culturally. We’re just not aware of it because whiteness is "the norm" in American society, like whatever accent we have is the norm in whatever place we live. Our culture is the standard, everyone else is "different" in that they’re different from us. (Interesting, though, I’ve always been me first, then White and/or American, then female, not female before white — maybe because I grew up in metro Washington, which is very diverse both racially & nationally).

  20. mzroz says:

    Snob: I’m with you completly on #10. I’ll never fully assimilate. There are times when I can’t stand being the only black person in the room. It’s also frustrating when I"m amongst other blacks and the only thing we have in common is race. Another thing: How can a black person not consider themselves black and only human living in America? I don’t get that one.

  21. Rachel says:

    I’m going to show this to my husband, who teaches Sociology at MU. I could actually see him including it – and the comments! – into either his Self & Society course or his Teaching Sociology course. More white people need to have the insight that DJ did: that being in a minority is a structural condition that opens many possibilities for conflict between "I" and "my racial identity."

  22. Daughter says:

    Monie and PIIC, my experience is like yours. I grew up in Cleveland and attended the public schools and while some kids resented me, a lot of my black classmates were really proud of my achievements, and no one ever accused me of "acting white." I think some of it may have to do with growing up in an environment in which your blackness is assumed, as it is in many large urban areas. When you attend school or grow up in a place when you’re in the minority, there seems to be more pressure to "prove" your blackness.Suzanne Malveaux (yes, that Suzanne Malveaux) was one of my Harvard classmates, and she spent a semester attending Howard. She wrote about comparing black students at Harvard and Howard, and one of her conclusions was that Howard students feel more freedom to be themselves, because they’re not in a place where they feel like they have to prove they’re black.

  23. SistaOpinion says:

    This is brilliant…thank you very much for posting it. I relate to much of it. Reading and writing before age 5, knowing that college was expected, attending integrated/predominantly white schools, having to keep my love of classical music and hard rock secret from other black kids, having to explain that I wasn’t "street" to white kids (um, yeah, Cosby Show’s not a fantasy, okay?)…oh yeah, fun times.I’m in academia, living in the Midwest, and feeling more isolated as a black woman than I ever have in my life. Living and working here has made me downright hostile towards educated white liberals in particular: Patting themselves on the back with one hand (because of Obama’s election) while holding on hard to white privilege with the other. I am seriously suffering from racial battle fatigue right now and am actively looking for ways to cope: Why after all these years am I STILL having to educate white people about race?On the flip side, I have absolutely no tolerance for anybody (but esp. black people) telling me that my choices and tastes make me less black. Seeing so many black people still living in this box of Authenticated Blackness makes me sad and mad at the same time: Sad because some of the shit in that box ain’t healthy (fat is good, snitching isn’t cool, relaxers are necessary) and mad because there’s such a big beautiful world out here and people are going to miss out on much of it because of culturally-imposed fear. (You can have money and still not want to go anywhere where there aren’t other black people.)I’m thinking I’m where you’re at: Consolidating and doing my best to keep from assimilating. How in the hell DOES one learn to just be a human being, esp. here in America? Aha…the expatriates may have a point…I’ve been in Europe enough to know that they’re not free of racism but at the same time I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t refreshing to be seen as just "American."

  24. dkan71 says:

    Great, insightful post, as usual…and also as usual seemingly copied from inside my head. It is because of stories like this that I found the money to contribute to the Snob-a-Thon. You’re so worth it.

  25. Robert M says:

    I do not know if this came about because of your post about the Obama’s going to Oak Bluff and bringing Bebe’s kids and having to deal w/ that inner AfricanAmerican pysche of whom I am or what. It doesn’t matter. It is a great post. I hope all the parents receive a copy for their children to read.

  26. Danielle Belton says:

    @ dkan71Knife fight.Kidding. I used to have a crazy huge birthmark there that had to be removed when I was eight. Doctors thought it could be cancerous so now I have a scar.

  27. @ sistaOpinion,I’m a black woman living in Europe and in total agreement with you about Europe not being free from racism but there being the opportunity to be seen as just "American" me. I was just lamenting to a friend yesterday that despite this opportunity to just be me, I haven’t taken advantage of it. I think that puts me around step 8.5

  28. rikyrah says:

    Step #10: Assimilate — Compete assimilation is the last and final step. I have never fully completed this step because assimilation would mean giving up the parts of blackness that I love and abandoning Negroes under the assumption that we’re a "lost cause." I’m not of that mind. Probably never will be. But I’ve known people who’ve reached step ten and feel at peace about it. They like saying they don’t consider themselves to be black, just human beings or that color isn’t an issue for them. They enjoy being the only black person in the room. For the love of Turnip greens and Bobby Rush, may I never reach step 10.I hear you, Snob.I definitely hear you.

  29. d says:

    @ Sista Opinion: I love hard rock and classical too! "Afternoon at the Opera" on the local radio station is a hoot. When I was young, my taste in music was always met with a side eye from black kids. Nothing has changed since I’ve entered the adult world. *shrugs* oh well!

  30. The A says:

    Posts like THIS are why we must support the Snob-a-Thon! People, put your money where your comments are! Give what you can & tell your friends. Danielle you are such a gifted writer. Thank you for this blog!

  31. Earline Bentley says:

    You go girl ! I really enjoyed that article. You are a gifted writer and have a lot to say. You had two great concerned parents that wanted the best for you. Thank you for all you do.Sincerely,Earline BentleyA fan

  32. Wow, this post is spot on. I’ve gone through steps 1 through 9. Step 10 is something that I too have not completely committed to, it’s probably because I didn’t completely perform step 7, meaning I still view life from behind the veil at times.

  33. Nonya says:

    Reading this post and the comments reinforces something that we all must come to grips with: sadly, (or perhaps predictably – given our history of oppression) Blacks are probably the most confused people on the planet. It pains me to say it since I am Black, but I think you have to first identify the problem before you can come up with any meaningful solution – assuming one exists.

  34. MrsT says:

    Great post. I was and still am a bit all over the place, I grew up mostly in the Midwest, started out in an integrated elementary school and then moved to one of the whitest suburbs in America and the late 80’s early 90’s, Aurora, Colorado. Moved again for middle school to black neighborhood, white school district, i2i with you on that one Snob. And finished off in a "ghetto" high school before heading to a large mostly white mid-western university.It can all be confusing at times, but at this point I just try to be me. I’m black and I know no one I meet in America will ever let me forget that.

  35. The A says:

    ya know, I keep thinkin about this post.excelling out of the community isn’t the biggest problemwhat do you do when you realize that you are excelling yourself out of your own family?

  36. I feel so much of this post. My journey was quite different as I was well on my way to "assimilation" at the tender age of 12 when I was speaking proper English, didn’t like sports of any kind, and becoming dorkier by the minute. Then as I increasingly became aware of my sexuality and my family became more socially conservative, my blackness became more and more irrelevant. I’m somewhere around 9.5, I consider myself black but have no interest in defending my blackness. Anytime someone calls me ‘white’ I switch goes in my head and I tune them out.

  37. Chrisitna says:

    This is a wonderful post, and makes me happy I kicked in some money at the beginning of the Snob A Thon, and I may be able to dig up a few bucks more (gotta get paid first though!)Though I didn’t follow this exact journey step for step, it sure did resonate for me. I never grew up in the "hood" — I was one of the few black kids in my school, and even fewer of us were in gifted classes so a lot of the time it was just me. So I was fortunate, I guess, to miss some of that "acting white" nonsense, though I’ll never forget when one of my cousins told me "you talk like a white girl…"Anyway.Then, I went to an HBCU, and boy, the culture shock. Still, it was a great experience for me because I had internalized a lot of racist thoughts from my little friends as I was growing up. And then I learned that I could be black and like the Beatles because I was around other people who didn’t need to draw such sharp borders around our blackness. It was clear that we all were black, so we could focus on the other things that made us unique. That was a good time.I’ll never get to that "I’m not black, I’m just human" thing in step 10. I don’t even know if that’s a good way to be; I feel like it’s being wilfully blind. Why would I want to discard this part of me? I wouldn’t discard my femaleness, so why my race? But maybe I’m wrong about this.

  38. The Snob says:

    It seems like I am in the minority regarding my reactions to this blog. Rather than seeing the "brilliance" in this young womans experiences and path towards self realization, I am appauled to bear witness to such ignorance and small mindedness about what it means to "be Black." As a well-educated young Black woman, I am disturbed to hear another young Black woman even communicate the idea that one can "excel out of the Black community," as if exposure to the dance, piano lessons, literary arts, and Vacation Bible School in early childhood and a college education in early adulthood are "White experiences" that have set her apart from her Black counterparts. Her explanation of such experiences seem to insinuate that these are necessary steps taken towards receiving some level of "honorary Whiteness." We enter a very slippery slope when we think of the terms "Black," "poverty," and "ghetto" synonymously.I empathize with this young woman’s feelings of isolation throughout grade school and college. What is upsetting, though, is to hear that the ignorance of a few childhood classmates who equated academic success with identification with a specific race, has impacted her own concept of Black culture, and more specifically what it means to just who she is as an individual. Ignorance, self-hatred, and prejudice is a two-way street, and the concepts offered in this blog seem just as bigoted as the the ideals that our people have been trying to move away from: That becoming educated and having the capacity to relate to individuals that do not physically look like us means having to give up a part of our own Blackness. Becoming a well rounded individual means more than being exposed to diverse values, races, cultures, and experiences. Without the ability to make sense of the knowledge we are given, it is all vanity. Without social skills, the ability to find something to relate to in all individuals, racial identity is no longer the issue…one just has failed to hold what should be an innate human capacity to share common values with others regardless of race. What I am reading seems to be an issue of racial identity at first glance, but looking deeper I see an individual that was not truly given the tools to relate to others on a basic social level. Race is definitely used as a scapegoat, with her feelings of victimization by being "too smart for the Black kids."I hope that this young woman’s path to self actualization has been freeing; but it is also sad to see how society has brainwashed us into believing that Black culture is rigid and that getting a college degree and living in sububia means handing in our membership card to the Black community. Lets teach our next generation that being Black means many different things, including excelling academically, planning for the future, and embracing whatever recreation, leisure, and music that our hearts desire. Lets stop believing that Whites have the market on intellectualism, financial success, and social eliticism. But above all else, lets stop perpetuating such prejudiced beliefs like the ones stated in this blog.

  39. C-dogg says:

    @SistaOpinion, I’d like to apologize for white people’s ignorance. I’ve lived with the credo of doing my best to respect people but I often struggle to be sensitive to the experiences of others. Simple human nature, you know? Surely, part of my insecurity comes from learning, as an adult, of the phrases used in the US that harken back to more divisive times. I try very hard to keep my speech oppression free because I believe in people, period, and I want my words to reflect that. It’s frustrating to screw up, offend people accidentally and spend months rebuilding a relationship due to my own ignorance or simple lack of empathy from having grown up in an entirely different world (i understand these things intellectually but it is still not "real" to me in some ways). There’s a lot of ignorance out there but I hope you are encountering more benevolent ignorance than not.I grew up in the suburbs and I definitely can relate to having strict parents, my parents barely let me leave the house for any non-school activity. There were a handful of non-white individuals at my school but there wasn’t a black clique, by any means. I think the lack of racial tension is one of the best parts of my high school memory, I’m getting wistful just thinking about it. All races were represented at all levels in the school and we fought, sure, but it was along clique lines not racial lines.While I totally understand a lot of attitudes put forth in this blog entry, I have to say I’m saddened. I hate to hear of people limiting themselves to fit in, and hearing from each of the commenters who express a different way that they differ from black culture. Support the individual, understand that everyone has different needs and desires and experiences and expresses themself uniquely.Hopefully in the years to come we will find a more helpful way to understand the variations in melanin that made the Puritan colonists so afraid. Especially considering how many of my friends are having mixed race babies. They all giggle and learn to crawl and sleep in cribs just like any other baby, but someday they’ll be trying to figure out which leg is the black leg and which leg is the asian leg and which arm is the white arm, it’s just so silly! How long until we learn to recognize the forest and the trees at once? Life is difficult enough.Thanks for the essay, it was very thought-provoking.

  40. S Wilson says:

    In response to the comment right above me, I’d like to also say that it is very sad that young women like the blogger felt that they had to limit themselves to fit in. But, I also feel that this young lady has issues that transcend race. Her comments about race and success are absurb and do nothing but illustrate her own self-hatred and immaturity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s