Welcome to The Blog About Nothing. It’s the 2nd of December, and it is the first Friday of the last month of the year. I’m sure many of us can’t wait to put 2016 behind us, and I am absolutely one of those people. However, before we can get to the end of 2016, I want to blog about something that is a touchy and tricky subject for me.
I’m currently listening to an Oasis mixtape that I have made. Oasis doesn’t have too much to do with the blog, but I like to establish pretty early on what I’m listening to.
One of my favorite songs of all time is Oasis’ Wonderwall. I absolutely love the song. We all need someone you feel that can save you. I’m a hopeless romantic and I’m also someone who is a bit unsure of where life is taking me, so I’m always searching for my own personal wonder wall but there is a line in the song that defines how I feel when I have to go inside myself to produce a blog.
“And all the roads we have to walk are winding. And all the lights that lead us there are blinding. There are many things that I would like to say to you but I don’t know how”. Sometimes, I don’t know how I want to deliver these messages, but I close my eyes, I type and I do it.
This week, I want to delve into race and identity. However, I can’t paint some broad based brush. I can only do it one way: that is to be personal.
What is race? What is identity? I blogged my feelings on the issue shortly after current Buffalo Bills offensive lineman, Richie Incognito entered public consciousness after his bullying of then Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin a few years ago. That blog dealt more with Incognito-Martin but this one is going to be more about myself.
All of my life, I have dealt with a race and identity issue. I’m black. I’m a proud dark skinned black male. However, as far as I can remember I’ve been assaulted with code words meant to question my blackness. From friends, from strangers, from the World. My appearance is black. My personality? Anything but according to them.
I’ve been called things like a dirty white man. I was recently labelled the whitest black person, a friend of mine has ever known. There have been other comments, and I mainly deal with them with a smile, but I’d be lying if I did not say that those words didn’t leave me feeling a little hurt.
The best way to tell this story is to start at the beginning. Or near the beginning, anyway. My schooling started at a Montessori school when I was four years old. I entered school already knowing how to read, and although my class was diverse, it was still predominately white. The head of the school, for obvious reasons, would showcase me to prospective parents. I guess a little black boy who read well was a good optic to be used.
However, just behind me was my mother. My mother was and always will be a quiet woman, but she stood there with the pride of someone who knew that the school did not teach me how to read. She did. She would not correct or let prospective parents know that what they were hearing was a product of her good work but the message was clear: don’t take no shit, son. They didn’t do this for you: I did.
It’s a message I carried on in life, but of course I bounced from one predominately white school to a next. This was the influence of my father. You see, my father believed that it was best for his children to mix with white people from an early age. Why? So they would not grow up intimidated of white people. I was taught they were my equal, and in some cases I was their better. It’s a worldly arrogance that I still carry with me.
Despite all of that though, some will say I’m not black enough. What is black though? I’m well spoken, well educated, have a penchant for listening to 90’s rock and pop music, I’m more politically savvy than most, and my closest friends are white. However, I’m not black enough. According to them anyway. To me, I’m me. Race might be what others label me by, and what I have to label myself, but my identity is strictly mine.
Truthfully, I hate labels. I hate them. I hate that people have to be placed into these perfectly defined baskets that no one can live up to. No one. I honestly feel that our World would be a better place if people allowed themselves some fluidity. It would be a better place if we can all surprise ourselves and not be defined by prejudice.
Open your minds. People do not have to conform to what you think they are. I like to say that even those who know me, won’t ever know all of me. Why? I even I don’t know all of me, so how can you label me or say that I don’t measure up to what you think I am? It’s not possible. It could never be possible.
So, while I grimace when people try to define my identity as a black man, all I can do is deal with it. I’m sorry if I don’t fit a preconceived notion of blackness, but what is a preconceived notion anyway? I’m me. I’m me, always. Taking it one day at a time, and proud to live outside of whatever box you feel the need to place me in.
Thanks for reading.
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