If I had a dime for every time someone asked me what I’m “mixed with” I’d be so rich I think I’d be buying Oprah schools and fleets of cars and small countries. It didn’t bother me when I was a little girl because I enjoyed how interested in me people were. They would talk about my skin color and my hair and wonder about the mysterious mixture of ethnicity I had flowing through my veins. I liked the attention as just about any child would, I suppose.
I thought it to be positive attention back then, but I know better now. Now I hate it, and I can see it coming from a mile away. When they get that twinkle in their eye, looking from my kinky, light brown hair (or red since I henna. They get thrown WAY off now!) to my skin. I give them the MEAN side-eye like the photo above.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Them: So, what are you?/ So, what are you mixed with?/ So, you’re like half White/Puerto Rican/Chinese/Dominican? (Some variation of that sentiment. I get it ALL.)
Me: Black./ I’m Black./ No I’m not mixed. Why?
Them: So you’re all Black?
Me: Yeah I’m all Black.
*Cue awkward end of that conversation and the abrupt start of a new one.*
Black is beautiful no matter the shade or hair texture. I don’t mind the initial questions. Sometimes I get a person’s ethnicity wrong too. It's an honest mistake. Skin color and hair texture can often be misleading because of our preconceived notions. *Shrugs* Whatever. No. What bothers me, and could easily hurt my feelings if I weren’t a semi-secure woman, is the fact that once I say that I’m simply Black. The “Oh…” that they utter is one of pure disappointment. Like, “Dang, I thought you were something special.” That’s what the underlying message is. And that is what really grinds my gears.
When did it stop being beautiful, sexy, exotic, to be a black woman? Who or what has framed people’s thinking so much that black ain’t beautiful in and of itself? Who’s writing these rule books? I’d like to just have a very brief conversation with them. I truly would. A lighter-skinned Black woman with a lighter and softer grade of hair merits a simple, “Oh…” as "just black" is stamped across her forehead and they go off in search of a Cablasia-Rican over whom to marvel.
I’m not a conceited person, and I’m not a Black Power militant but black in and of itself, un-hyphenated, is beautiful. All our shades. All our hair textures. All our full lips. All our accomplishments. All our overcoming and defining moments. Don’t walk up to me and ask, “What are you?” because first of all, that’s uber ignorant and downright rude. Secondly, hold your tongue with the, “Oh…” reply unless it’s followed by, “…my GOD you’re effin’ gorgeous!”
Monday, August 13, 2012
La Truly is a late-blooming Aries with Natural hair and lots to say. Her writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. Armed with the ability to purposefully poke fun at herself and a passion for young women’s empowerment, La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and positive change. Check out her thoughts/jokes/rants on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly & her up-and-coming blog's Twitter account: HerSOULinc.
For Harriet is an online community for women of African ancestry. We encourage women, through storytelling and journalism, to engage in candid, revelatory dialogue about the beauty and complexity of Black womanhood. Learn more.