Growing up I always felt as though I was a little bit different. I always “fit in” and had friends, but still managed to feel left out at times. It all started when I was in elementary school. “It” being the first time I was told “You talk like a white girl.” Being a young child, you really don’t understand what it means.
Honestly, I am 27 now and still don’t know exactly what point one is trying to get across when they say that. Is it my grammar, the tone of my voice, or that I use the word “like” a little more than I probably should? Does sound have some color I don’t know about?
I never knew what “talking and acting white” meant, but I do know that for many years it made me think I was different. It made me feel like something was wrong with me and that I did not fit in or belong. It made me insecure and uncomfortable to be me. I would sit in class and not say much because I wouldn’t want to get picked on by the other kids.
I got sick of being called an oreo, or hearing how white of a black girl I was. I don’t think many people understand how offensive comments like that actually are. I didn’t then, but looking back wish I would have stood up for myself more.
I was silent for years, and people would call me shy or arrogant. That has never been the case for me, I don’t consider myself to be a shy person. I am a pretty big introvert, so keeping to myself is not too far out of my nature. Back then, my silence and quiet demeanor were simply defense mechanisms.
I was the little girl that would listen to TLC and then put in my Ace of Base tape. I would go to ballet and jazz class and come home and listen to old school R&B with my mom. Not many of my hobbies have changed as an adult either. My playlist consists of hip hop, R&B, country, classical, you name it. I love to go to the ballet just as much as I enjoy a rap concert.
Once I got to high school I still got the “you talk white” “why are all of your friends white?” comments. Then I even started to get the “I act more black than you do” comments. Oh, and I can’t forget the “you’re pretty for a black girl” ones too. Not only my voice, but now my looks were getting called out? Come on!
It felt like I couldn’t win at all with anyone. No matter what I did or said, or how I dressed, I would never be ‘black’ enough.
While I have always been good at brushing it off, I can’t say it never hurt me. It never occurred to me how much of an impact those comments would have on me in the long run.
My mother raised me to always take pride in my speech, and to always present myself in a respectful way. To speak up and enunciate so that people could understand what I was saying. She wanted me to be comfortable talking in front of a crowd and know that my voice was a powerful too. She has always said my voice would be the key to my success one day.
Although the other kids made fun of my speech I would frequently get compliments from adults about being proper and polite. Those compliments gave me the confidence I needed to appreciate the voice I have.
I became one of the main faces of my high school tv station. Hosting shows and segments week after week for three years. The same kids that picked on me before were the same ones asking me how to be on tv. Kind of funny how that works, right?
I went on to get my Bachelor’s degree in communications, I am completing my masters degree in applied communications, I’ve had the opportunity to do commercials for a local radio station and be a top 10 finalist in a contest to be the face of Indianapolis.
All of these accomplishments came in part from using the voice I was so ashamed of at one point. This “white voice” of mine sure works in my favor sometimes, doesn’t it? *insert sarcasm*
Throughout the years I have become a lot more comfortable in my own skin, but I still struggle some with public speaking and holding conversations.
I’ve mentioned in other pieces of mine that I have never been one to talk much about race. These days, it seems like we can’t escape the conversations circling around it. Which at times I am starting to appreciate more and more for personal reasons. The dialogue around race has helped me gain a better self-identity in a world that so badly wants to declare one for me.
At a young age, it was pretty apparent that a lot of my friends were of different races. Let’s be real they still are and I love all of my friends dearly.
It’s never been that I preferred having friends of a different race, those friendships were just always a little easier for me to develop and maintain. I have been blessed with a circle of amazing friends that have shaped me into the woman I am now. I have learned so much from them and I only hope to keep a diverse circle of people around me. While many of my female friends are not of color, I do have some.
I will say that at this stage in my life I do find myself wishing I had more friends that do look like me. It is not to say I don’t love and appreciate all of my friends because I wholeheartedly do, but growing older brings new struggles and obstacles and some of those I currently face are probably more relatable to other black females. My childhood experience made it hard for me to approach those friendships, and I can say I don’t really know how.
For example, Issa Rae, who may be one of my favorite actresses and writers these days hits on topics like this in her book The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl , and her HBO show Insecure. It has been great having a show depict some of the feelings I have and can relate to.
I find it humorous that the black female friends I do have all have the same experience and story growing up. It’s one of the things that we can talk and laugh about. Being the token black girls with the white voices who wore Abercrombie.
Looking back it saddens me to see how we can treat one another. Not knowing how big of an impact our words can have on someone. Who knew that things I was told as an 8-year-old would still affect me at 27 at times. It’s mind-blowing when you think about it really. I ran into an old high school acquaintance years ago who apologized for the way her group treated me back then.
A year ago I was going to help a friend for an event at her job knowing that about 98 percent of the students would be of color, and it makes me sad to admit that I was a nervous wreck. I was scared that the minute I opened my mouth the white girl comments would start flying my way. I felt like I was taking a step back in time all over again. Obviously, the event went fine, and the kids were amazing, but those moments from my childhood crept back in.
One thing I have learned from all of this it is that I’ll never be able to make everyone happy. I won’t be accepted by everyone and that is completely fine. I am who I am and I am learning to love and appreciate that more each day.
The moment you accept yourself is the moment you start to live a little again.