I’m of Caribbean, Central American, and European descent. I also possess a 131+ IQ (I tested higher as a child) and a dual-citizenship with the United States and Great Britain.
I work most of that into conversations with acquaintances because I am fairly dark in complexion and I always feel a need to prove myself worthy of being talked to.
I’m articulate (despite battling a speech impediment in my youth), employed, drug-free, and have a bachelor’s degree…but the employees following me in stores couldn’t possibly know that.
Being yourself gets difficult when you’re constantly trying to avoid being seen as ratchet, ghetto, or dangerous. When having interests beyond hip-hop and fried chicken* is incredulous to others.
Aesthetically, I’m luckier than many black women because the European bone structure of my face allows me to be “really pretty for a black girl.” Whenever I get down on myself for not being high-colour, I think about the plight of even darker women who don’t have French noses.
My overall experience with racism in America has been limited to microagressions and fear of law enforcement fueled by rarely covered incidents like Mike Brown’s murder. Not feeling #thestruggle as intensely as other black people has probably been the biggest detriment to establishing connections with black Americans.
As a first-generation American, I tend to gravitate towards other children of immigrants rather than the 3+ generation Americans, black or otherwise. My unusually diverse primary and secondary education provided a plethora of such children to grow up with. We had an optimism born from parental sacrifice that shielded many of us from harsh realities.
Transitioning from a diverse high school to a university that happens to be diverse becomes most noticeable when race/slavery/civil rights are brought up in class. The former institution fosters intense discussion while the latter is met with fidgeting students and numerous gazes from the professor begging me/the other black student to join in.
We already know that being black comes with serious drawbacks. Why not let the other students try to understand institutional and societal racism?
Because it’s hard for people to empathize with being told daily that your hair isn’t straight enough, your skin is too dark to be beautiful, you’re too smart to represent your race, and that you’re unworthy of love, respect, and due process.