Black and Foreign …My Experience

In my every day life, for as long as I could remember being black was a confusing concept….for me at least. I remember being in elementary school, in NY and heavily using Ebonics. Ebonics for me was my primary language. I got older, and the year of my tenth birthday; my family and I moved to Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, I attended a suburban school where a teacher took interest in me and began to mentor me. I love my mentor despite her strict moments. She always corrected my speech. I oftentimes used slang terminology in place of actual words,  and my grammar left much to be desired.  I know that my grammar is still in a state of disrepair, but I’m getting off track.
After years of influence, thanks to my mentor; I no longer spoke as if I had a 3rd grade education. Junior high rolled around and I decided this is when I am going to start building up towards an amazing HS experience. I attempted to to make friends with the other kids and some it was easy others it was difficult. I remember asking the other kids why they just didn’t like me and was met with a look of disgust followed by this response “You look poor, and who names a black girl Hannah”. To my surprise this wasn’t a “white” kid saying this it was a “black ” kid saying this to me. I honestly didn’t know how to process this. So I hung out in the library and slowly my social circle became predominantly white. The black kids in my school thought that it was my attempt at being white,  and that I was ashamed at being black. When in actuality they were just  nicer to me, and had similar taste and interest.
Fast forward to adulthood and I am still dealing with similar stuff. I have been rejected by my peers at work because of my mannerism, and the fact that I choose not to slang. I am often met with people feeling like I’m better than them because of the way I simply carry myself. Also my name, as pretty as it is, is a no no.  As an adult I deal with negative reactions from both sides of the fence. Whether it be black, or white, some people just assume if you look black you should  fit a certain criteria. I remember working a retail job and a customer came up to me and asked me about a rap artist, to which I responded “I am sorry I don’t listen to rap” she then said to me word for word “how you black and don’t listen music,  I call bullshit ” I shrugged and apologized and said “I like rock, Punk Rock,  metal and the like” the woman rolled her eyes “you know you black right!? ” and paid for her merchandise and left the store. There was another instance when a customer, an elderly Caucasian guy came into my store and he looked at first I just smiled and greeted him and went about my tasks. The gentleman made his way over to the register and I began to ring him out,  he began to stare. I laughed nervously and joked about something being on my face,  he responded “you look foreign, your eyes and cheek bones…. where are are you from?” I smiled and answered “my family and I are from Trinidad, it’s in the Caribbean” the gentlemen then responded “oh yeah what part of Africa is that? ” I blinked a few times in disbelief and calmly said “it’s not part of Africa, it’s located in the Caribbean, and said you know black people or people of color whatever you choose to say, can literally be found all over the world. We aren’t all natives of Africa” the man smiled and said “I thought for sure that was an African country ” I laughed and thanked the man for his business and wished him well.
It’s not much better with my friends, I’m often introduced as the whitest black person they know, and told that I sound “white”. I told my friends, how ignorant that statement was. It’s like they are saying that people of the Caucasian variety or white people are the only ones who can speak intelligently. I also get teased for not behaving like a B.E.T extra when I’m upset in public. It’s insane, like I just don’t understand.
I was in the car driving home with my friend raging about everything, he laughed and said “well just use your accents and try your luck back in your home country “.
My family and I, most of us come from the Caribbean and with that being said there are some glaring differences; in terms of culture, practices, behavior and everything. I thought on all of this and simply said, “A true trini, could tell the difference from a mile away. I have spent 24 years in America, and have become far to Americanized to fit in back home. There is nothing more upsetting than to know, no matter what, you will not be accepted”. I also told him,  our likes,  dislikes and taste shouldn’t be dictated by stereotypes or what we think is acceptable by the black community; lastly people shouldn’t be upset when I say I’m not African American, because I’m not and quite frankly neither are the ones labeled as such; who currently reside in America, they are just American. If you were born here and raised here your Fucking American. It’s rude to claim a culture you know nothing of.  It’s not giving up your identity it is claiming your home,  I don’t even understand the need for separation. I digress, being I guess societal “black and foreign ” isn’t easy,  but I’m just going to taken it a day at a time. This isn’t to offend people, who want to identify as African Americans, that is completely your prerogative.

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