By: Denise Nichole Andrews
The bell rings for lunch. I don’t know where to sit. Everyone else seems to find their friends but I just moved here. Besides, where is a girl like me supposed to go? A girl in studs and plaid. A girl that wears Misfits tees and beanies. A girl that skates hard and fast. I don’t fit in with the jocks or cheerleaders.
I’ve never picked up a pom-pom in my life. I rather pick up a guitar and shred. I rather pick up my pencil and write. While I didn’t fit in, I still tried to, but my soon to be step brother made sure to remind me that I couldn’t, “You’re not even black!”
I’m not black? Or is it that I’m not black enough? When I went to high school, black people hung out with black people, white people hung out with white people, Latinos hung out with Latinos, and Asians hung out with Asians.
For a small suburb in Southern California, the campus was diverse but everyone seemed to align themselves with people who either looked, dressed, or talked like them. The school was divided into cliques. When you’re not cool, popular, or even known- eating lunch alone is a daily occurrence.
See, I am black but I am mixed, and as a teenager, I was judged because of it. If it wasn’t the color of my skin, it was the type of music I listened to. Most kids my age weren’t downloading mp3s of punk bands like Bad Brains and Fish Bone or reggae artists like Sister Nancy and The Skatalites.
Explaining my love of alternative music to members of my community, deemed me as “too white” despite these artists being black themselves. I mean didn’t they know that rock and roll music was founded by a black woman named Sister Rosetta Tharpe? Apparently not. My love of skateboarding and guitar playing confused them even more. There were times when I felt like I was from a different planet. I sought acceptance from my peers, but they continued to exclude me.
During this time, I felt a constant need to prove myself but no matter what I did, it was not enough. It didn’t matter that I could spit harder rhymes than my stepbrother. It didn’t matter that I experienced prejudice, ridicule, and discrimination on a weekly basis. The name calling worsened. Slurs were constantly thrown my way, yet I stayed true to myself.
The bullying was frequent. As a result I grew deeply depressed, but with time I found other black and brown girls like me. Black and brown girls who moshed in the pits and who weren’t afraid to get down. The local music scene in the area was thriving with new talent. Weekends were all about shows or finding new skate spots. I could keep up with the boys which opened me up to more judgement. But I was a tough cookie. Even when I fell, I got back up again.
Black girls are often measured by a scale of impossible standards. As a tomboy, I rejected notions of beauty. I shopped in the boys’ clothes section or hunted for vintage bands shirts at thrift stores and swamp meets. Wearing dresses was the equivalent of going to the dentist, I avoided it at all costs! But as a black girl, not only did I have to prove my blackness, I had to prove my femininity.
My hair was too short, my teeth were too crooked, my jeans were too ripped, my style was anything but girly, yet for many black girls— beauty and desirability are measures of worth. I did not conform. It just wasn’t me. My friends and I found ourselves on the outskirts at times. We were often targeted as a result of our individuality. Every day was a test, but we got through.
Black girls are resilient. They grow up to be fierce black women. They grow up to be game changers. They nurture their communities and when they can’t find them, they create them. Yet black girls face many challenges that are often projected within their very own communities. That is why it is important that black girls unite together and encourage one another.
Looking back, I am thankful. My experience as a teenager strengthened me. Like, many other black girls, I felt pressure from every angle. I felt pressure to be beautiful and liked. I felt pressure to fit in amongst my peers. When others doubted my blackness, I believed them. I questioned myself. I questioned if I was really black at all because my version of blackness was not accepted.
Yet, now I know the truth. The truth is I rocked! The truth is that you do too! Other people will try to make you feel sorry for being the person you were born to be. Don’t let them. Don’t apologize. Don’t let others define you or speak for you. Never compromise your blackness! You are not them. Your experience is valid. You march to the beat of your own drum. But you are not alone. You are unapologetically black and nobody can take that away.
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