“You’re not Black!”, “You listen to white people music”, “You talk white”, “You act
white”. These were all the taunts I heard growing up.
Surrounded by my Black neighborhood friends, we all sat on a stoop in the summer heat.
Laughing and joking we started to talk about our favorite old school movies. Soon they shouted
out movies I had never heard before. ” Juice”, “New Jack City”, “Waiting to Exhale”, “Poetic
Justice” and I bunch more I can’t remember. Then it was my turn. Something I never admitted to
people was I never watched any of those movies. The most I had under my belt was Friday,
which impressed no one.
“My favorite movie is Coraline”, I said. My friends’ faces curled with confusion.
“Okay, but we meant favorite classic Black movie,” one of my friends replied. Now the
pressure was on. My eyes darted as I murmured under my breath. In my mind, I thought do I
want to admit the truth and yet again be ridiculed for “not being Black”? But the truth is the
“Well, I never watched any of those movies,” I said and everyone jaws dropped. In
disbelief, they all screamed and exclaimed their confusion.
“What??” they all shouted, “You never what??”
“I never watched those movies and I kinda never wanted to,” I responded.
“Class Act? BAPS? Love Jones? House Party?” they shouted movie after movie. But my
response was the same.
“No, no, no and no. But so what?” My annoyance prevailed but I contained it with my
And then it was finally said, “You’re not Black. Especially, if you haven’t seen these
movies.” And it continues, “I’m taking ya black card.”
From situations like these during my childhood, I didn’t want to be black. From all I
experienced, I was never black enough for anyone.
My taste in music during middle school was artists like Avril Lavigne, Melanie Martines,
Demi Lovato, and Katy Perry. Often this was used to ridicule me. My dad constantly stated how
my music taste was white and teased me about it. Soon I developed animosity towards “black”
things and wanted only “white” things. I wanted to speak with proper grammar instead of black
vernacular. I behaved poshly instead of “ghetto”. I strived to surpass my fellow black classmates
with intelligence and look down at them for being “unintelligent”. Practically, I began to
dissociate from my race. I was done with being Black.
During the 7th grade, I started to join theater programs. For the first time, I began to
interact with other races of people. These people had the same interest, listen to the same music,
had similar aspirations but most importantly, they knew I was Black. No one denied me my
culture, my race. Instead, they validated it and wanted to learn from me what it means to be
Black. Being socially conscious middle schoolers, the race wasn’t a topic we feared. We basked in
our difference and took important moments to learn from one another. After years of trying to
wash my race away, my Blackness reappeared to me. Instead of the negative stereotypes, I
became interested again in what it means to be black (even if I still haven’t watched Do the Right
Although I was called “white” for it, I was still an advent reader. Reading was the only
way I comprehend topics, especially something as complex as race. I told myself. for an entire
school, I was only going to read books by black authors with black characters. The first book I
read was Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers. I was blown away by how much I related to
both characters. Just like me, they were poor blacks trying to beat the odds to be successful.
Next, I would read the entire Bluford series (although the author is white) and love every one of
them, The Bully was my favorite.
Then I picked up Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, bell hooks and Toni Morrison. I realized how Black literature could
be once you stop aspiring to be white. But the writer who taught me everything about my Blackness was James Baldwin. I read
him for the first time in the 9th grade and fell in love with him. Baldwin’s poetic and prolific
prose became the base of my black identity. From him, I began to read more nonfiction by black
authors. I introduced myself to Angela Davis, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Dubois, and Stokley
My biggest epiphany from all of this reading was that everyone who ever told me I wasn’t
black was wrong. Just because I wasn’t interested in certain movies or music doesn’t mean I
wasn’t black. Just because I had a ferocious appetite for literature doesn’t mean I’m white. After
using black literature to cultivate my identity I realized how racist my parents and friends were
truly being to me. To associate intelligence or reading with whiteness implies that blackness is
tied to stupidity.
This is completely false. These falsehoods are internalized amongst many in our
community. We, as black people, have accepted the falsehoods of white supremacy to oppress
ourselves. We literally tell our youth that they shouldn’t be smart because of their black. Or that
they are less black if they like certain things that aren’t associated with being black. Which
means we are limiting what is acceptable for them to like or do.
This keeps us in line with the expectations of white supremacy. It makes it easier to control and develop self-hatred.
My blackness is valid. Yes, I like to read. Yes, I like pop music. Yes, I haven’t watched a
single Spike Lee movie. But that has nothing to do with not being black. I read The Color
Purple, and how many other black people can claim that? And why do we put less stress on
reading For Colored Girls and more stress on watching it? That is the work of white supremacy.
But let it be known, I still love “Black” things.
Yes, I still do love hip hop (but alternative rap is what I like most). Yes, I can cook the best-fried chicken and baked macaroni you ever had.
And yes, I still do every line dance played at any cookout. And yes, I’m still Black! But my
blackness is mine.
Source: Tamia Lawrence. Afro World New guest writer