By: Shanae Cain
Growing up I have questioned myself countless times “Where do I fit in?” My skin has defined me. My hair has defined me. Even the way I speak has defined me. Defined me as what? My skin is not dark. My hair is kinky, and I am an aspiring writer, with good vocabulary. Up until the age of 5, My skin color or my hair never bothered me. I never cared to fit in. I was just me. I was Shanae Anna Mae Cain, and be proud of that, my mom would tell me. Most people don’t realize the hardships that come with being mixed. With all of the commotion about white on black, or black on white racism, you don’t often hear about black on mixed racism or white on mixed racism.
It sounds weird even typing it out now, but it’s very real. I experienced this type of racism for the first time in kindergarten. I had my powerpuff girls backpack on, and my hair in two pigtails, or more realistically, two poof-balls. My dad left after walking me into class. My dad is dark. Whenever my dad would walk me into class in the morning my teacher never greeted him like she would greet the other parents. She always looked at my mom with a funny face, and I always wondered why. I never worried about it too much being that I was 5. After my dad left the teacher sat me down and the girl I sat with was white.
Not that her skin mattered to me, but as it would turn out, my hair bothered her, and after seeing my dad walk with me to class, it was obvious that I was black or at least half. I took out my markers and she took out hers. She had more colors than I did, so I asked her if she wanted to share. “No, your hair is ugly. Why does it look like that?” That day, I developed a complex of my hair.
This is a very common issue for most black women. We always want to change our hair, hide our curls by flattening them out or wearing extensions. Speaking from experience (I have damaged my hair beyond belief) it is not worth it! My hair was constantly a problem for me, and honestly it still is some of the time, though recently I have become more accepting of my natural hair and all of the twists and kinks. My afro is unique and natural and beautiful.
All that I wish is that I realized this sooner. It’s hard to realize your own true beauty when there are people who are constantly putting you down, and feeding you negative energy. In middle school, and high school I was extremely sensitive of what people would tell me, and like many kids at that age I was also very impressionable. I took everything that was said to heart. The comments about my hair continued, and comments about my race began to surface at a quick rate. I had a crush on a boy in middle school, my first real crush actually. I told one of my friends and she kinda scoffed at me and said “He won’t date a black girl.”
Middle schoolers are so immature, and you can only imagine some of the comments my classmates would make about my parents, and about being black, and about being white. The comments kept coming and my attitude towards myself was going in a complete downward spiral. In 8th grade, I was bullied by a specific person, every day. It was a constant reminder of why I hated myself.
I grew up in a family with divorced parents, so it was hard to not have two people to lean on. I love my mom, and she helped me a lot, but I also wanted my father’s presence constantly, when I was dealing with this. I know that my dad had to go through the same thing when he was younger, and it was a harsher time for him being a black kid growing up in the 70’s, racism was more prominent then, then it is now.
I needed his advice, but I had to deal with my problem without the help from someone with first hand experience with racism. After school I went home crying from the constant bullying, almost every day. I had a kid once ask me “If your dad loved you, then why did he leave? Oh i forgot black dads do that.” By the time i was a freshman in highschool, not only was my hair damaged, but so was my self confidence.
I did not love myself at all. I hated getting up in the morning and I hated looking in the mirror, although I was constantly staring at my reflection thinking of different ways I could change the person looking back at me. It got really bad. Self harm is never the answer, but I had turned to it for awhile. I really didn’t like myself, and I felt like no one else did either.
I remember going to a basketball game in high school to support my best friend, our local school played against another school who had a predominantly black student population. Sitting in the bleachers a couple of black girls behind me were making comments about my skin color, “That light skin Bitch thinks she’s the Shit.” I had no idea who the girls behind me were. I’ve been told that I have a big forehead, I’ve been told that I’m a mutt, I’ve been called a penguin, an oreo, and even a newspaper. Anything that could have been associated with being black and white i’ve been called. High School was really hard for me. I didn’t “fit in” with a crowd, I had a total of 2 friends, and I was getting more and more depressed with each day that went by.
I stuck it out for 2 ½ years. Eventually it got to be too much, so I asked my mom to enroll me in an independent studies program and thankfully she agreed. I spoke to a counselor at this new program, and my teacher was amazing. These people helped me realize my true potential, and constantly reminded me that I am a beautiful amazing person. Regardless of the color of my skin, or the kinkyness of my hair, or the fact that I don’t have a dad. These things do not define who I am. All of the hateful comments i’ve received do not define who i am. This is key.
Nothing defines who you are, except you. You are you, and you can’t change that, and you shouldn’t want to. So what does my skin color, my hair, or my speech define me as? It doesn’t. It doesn’t define me. I define me, I am the person I want to be. I still hear racist remarks, People think my hair being in box braids is weird. People think my fro is weird. People think my mom being married to a black man for 15 years and having 3 kids with him was weird. People are going to say things that you may not like. I started college in January of 2015, and as I introduced myself to my teacher, and my class, one of the students commented “you’re black? You don’t sound like it.” If I was 15 year old Shanae, I would have probably cried about that.
That comment made me realize that a lot of people don’t associate black people with good vocabulary. I was not hurt, all I could think was “Well all I can do is prove the stereotypes wrong.” You should not dwell on the negative energy that others put out. If you do you will be wasting your time. I’ve been told “You’re too white to be black, and you’re too black to be white.” If that is the case so be it. I don’t need to fit in anywhere. I don’t wish to fit in anywhere. I know I am not the only one who has gone through this.
In the end of the day, all you have to remember is that you are you, no one can ever be you, and there is no one else in the world like you. You can not be replaced. So embrace your natural beauty, embrace your culture and embrace yourself. You are beautiful simply because you are you.