Defying Laws of Blackness
I defy the laws of physics I am never black enough and too black simultaneously. In a simple search, Black girls. I witness two extremes. The over the top extraness of glam couture “ here I am different and fabulous”. and the “I am my blackness” natural hair, full figures and features and a DNA analysis certifying your Nigerian roots. I am neither. Residing on the outskirts, what is considered blackness has always eluded me. I was in the 5th grade when I learned the effect that my blackness had on others.
I have this photograph of my maternal great grandparents circa 1894, there’s Louisa with her sunbathed bronze complexion, standing next to her husband Robert. These were proud Caribbean people. The lonely little colored girl, who looked like Louisa, sat in her class unable to actively participate in the exciting conversation about Shelly’s slumber party that previous weekend. Clearly excluded and purposely kept in the dark my exclusion from the party was no different from my exclusion from the conversation. Invisible at our tiny island of desks I sat there watching the reminiscent conversation about staying up late watching MTV. Hearing “Isn’t Axel Rose the cutest!!!” and then listening them sing “Janie’s gotta gun…” Then laughing about how much ice cream Shannon ate, making pizza and giggling. Lots of giggling. I couldn’t relate. Later, I was told that, to Shelly’s mom, I looked too much like Louisa with her beautiful brownness. That funny shade of brown that the sun produces on the islands of Trinidad and Grenada. A brown similar to the brown, and by similar I mean, just brown; like the girls who had allegedly beat up Shelly’s sister. That was 1985. Twenty years after the civil rights movement, ten years after the Black Power Movement. When things should be different, my black is still too black.
It seemed that I could only be friends with the white girls in school and was not welcomed by the black girls outside of it. I was in the gifted and talented program. Singled out for brightness, I was pretty, well- mannered, helpful and shown favor by the adults. As a result the mean spirited cool black kids in the neighborhood; the ones rocking jheri curls, thick glasses and the latest 80’s fashion, despised me. I was called oreo, wannabe and white girl. So what I had the dope braids and beads. I could never be down since from 9-3 Mon-Fri, I was trying to be white. In elementary school there was an afterschool club program, I, the oreo decided to be in the My African American Heritage Club. My black cohorts picked the aerobics club. So much for being black enough.
We lived in Baltimore county. All of my cousins lived in Baltimore city. Evidently, their urban upbringing disqualified my blackness. I was a county girl. Not black enough to be down with my city cousins. My big cousin, the coolest chic I knew, who wore USED denim, red Rider boots, fingerwaves and crimps tried to qualify me with the traditional ethnic/black hairstyle of braids and beads. My braids went to side. When I tilted my head to right my braids were sooo long. I was cute. Nevertheless, I was still the oreo cousin who talked and acted white. The wannabe. Back in the county, having braids and beads didn’t make me black enough. Even though I had them before anyone else as the wannabe; it did not qualify my blackness. “You thank you cute. you not. you STILL a wannabe… wit’ stoopid braids.” Neck roll and all. In school, the white kids were fascinated with sound my hair made when I moved. They had to know “why do you have ‘luminum foil on yer hair?” “ Look she has ‘luminum foil in her hair.” “My mom keeps that in the kitchen.” My differences offended others to the point of ridicule and exclusion. It never occurred to me to want to fit in. I was just being me. Almost thirty years later I still defy the laws of blackness.