“Yes, I heard about the new blog at Patheos with black Pagans. Excuse me, I have an insecurity to cover up.”
@Philosarific, asked me (tongue-in-cheek) what was I wearing in response to that tweet. He probably has no idea the emotional cave-in that resulted from such a tiny tap. “I’m tripping over my shame again, aren’t I.”, was my reply.
You who have lurked from the beginning already know this story. So I’ll keep it short. I’m half black, half Hispanic. Mother is from the eastern United States, Father is from an island. Their families did not approve of the marriage. Neither side has ever considered me kin. I’m the half-breed they have to tolerate. My father was in the military for most of my life. I grew up on a military base, with other half-breed children of different cultures. As such, I have a decidedly different world view than my mother or her family. Because of this, at every opportunity, I am reminded being half-black isn’t black enough. “When you going to stop acting so god damn white? That’s right, you’re not whole black, you can’t help it.” “I don’t know what you are, Keri. But you’re not one of mine.” “I wonder if you was switched at birth, because a black girl doesn’t act like that.” “I guess you didn’t get enough black blood from me, or you wouldn’t be so fucked up in the head. That’s a white man’s disease.”
It wouldn’t be that bad, if the cultural expectations was only from my family. The expectations of the average U.S. American of blacks is unrealistic at best, and blatantly racist at its core. I talk on the phone with people, then meet them in person for the first time. They would look at me oddly, wondering why I was accosting them. Then their face blanches with realization, then red with embarrassment. Then the words I hate hearing so much. “You sound so white on the phone! I mean…” Yea, I know what you mean. Iz dun sun li’ iz got no skuulin’.
Equally distressing is when the person I’m meeting is black, culturally black. They will start talking the lingo, the slang, the Housewives of Atlanta inflection, and then take offense when I don’t drop my “white mask” for them. (The only time I hear black women talking like the Housewives of Atlanta, is when they are putting on a show. And I’m in California, such shows are our #1 export!) I heard a black acquaintance introduce me to her friends, with the explanation “Keri isn’t one of us. She’s a little different so you might have to keep some things simple for her.” For every one brazen to say this in front of me, are a dozen whispering it in quiet.
Over and over, the message comes through very loud and very clear. I’m not black enough. Not black enough to participate in Black Women’s events. Not black enough to play dress-up with my cousins. Not black enough to be taken seriously as a potential date. Not even black enough to be treated like a jew. (Black joke. Highly distasteful. Staple comedy in the South.) During college, I was subtly excluded from the Black Student’s council. Sent off on gopher errands while the council sat on important matters. “Sorry, Keri. You just don’t look or act ‘black’ enough. The students that look to us to represent them, will see you as the administration’s “Massa’s Bitch”.”
So. Yes. I have an insecurity to cover up. It’s part of the reason I can’t stand the sight of my own face. (And y’all thought I was just dodging face recognition algorithms. Yea. That too.) I don’t fit. I don’t belong. My own kin wants nothing to do with me and my daughter. To them, I’m just a reason why you don’t breed outside your race. Misfit. Misshapen. Mentally deficient and irredeemable. Outsider. Outcast. Useless.
I do not want your sympathy. I appreciate where such sentiments come from. I do. But I am unable to process them, or even understand them. Intellectually, I understand what effect your “You poor thing” is supposed to have. But all I hear is “Go cry in the corner, you’re making my ears bleed.”. I don’t know how to process sympathetic remarks. Probably, because I’m used to such words being the preface for more abusive words later.
I know what I have to do, long term, to make the pain stop. I have to stop covering up my shame. While I will still have a knee-jerk reaction to anything labeled “all inclusive for all blacks”, I have to stop ascribing to the author (or messenger), the maliciousness of my mother’s family. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. For all I know, the black Pagan blog at Patheos may be more representative of me than I give it credit. Eventually, I’ll go read it. Once I find someplace that can decompose this huge chip I seem to be carrying on my shoulder. Until then, the thought of someone speaking for black women, and include me, is a work of delusional fiction.