Thursday, August 13, 2009

Am I Black Enough For Ya?

No, actually you are not.

The crop of '80s babies whose parents sacrificed for their kids to grow up in the right neighborhoods (i.e. not a brown face in sight), attend the right schools (again, mostly white, regardless of the rigorless curriculum) and talk right (i.e. using white colloquolisms, not proper grammar) really piss me off.

In some ways, I'm one of them. Technically, I've always lived West of the interstate that runs through my hometown, either in a suburb or sufficiently close to one to be considered suburbia. I entered a Montossori program at 5, a magnet school at 6 and thus was privy to my share of "Well, that's an interesting hairstyle" comments and damn-I'm-the-only-Black-girl-at-this-sleepover-again moments.

But, on the other hand, I grew up with a huge Souhern Black family. Which meant that I always knew the latest ghetto dance, had plenty a recommendation for a good, cheap hairbraider and could hand-game with the best of them.

Because I've moved within different worlds my whole life, it always annoys me when people who are more one-sided feel superior about it. Like, "Oh, I'm a wannabe Valley girl with bad weave. I'm better than you." Or, "I'm so hoooooood. Get on my level." Either personality is annoying, but the Oreo complex is the most offensive. Mainly because it's rooted in the same prejudices that kept Black people out of those white (not rich) neighborhoods and schools. The idea that because white people embrace it, it must be better.

Just because you listen to Maroon 5, doesn't mean you have eclectic taste. It only means that you like Top 40 hits. Like the rest of the world. Just because the slang you use isn't normally heard on MLK Boulevard, doesn't mean that you're speaking the King's English. Your speak isn't "better" than so-called African-American venecular; it's just different. Just because you have "Daddy Bought It" plates on your car instead of a baby Jordan dangling from the rearview, doesn't mean you are more cultured; your culture is just not stereotypically Black. But you still are.

And again, I find it so obnoxious because the mentality behind it is "Well, this is white, so it must be better." I attended Howard University ("H-U!") and I vividly remember all of those Freshman year, "rep your set" talks. The Black-neighborhood kids against the white-neighborhood kids (I repped both), the private school folks against the public school people. The gist of what a lot of the Oreo kids would say is that their parents wanted the best for them, so sending them to ABC Avenue High School and making them the only one in their class was the best option. The school's often didn't offer any special programs or super-duper advanced classes to prepare them for a good college. They were just white.

I just never understood that. Probably because my mom was so vehemently against me and my sister going to school in predominantly White neighborhoods. She never explained to me why, but I believe it was because she understood the sense of pride and community you get when your principal, counselor, teachers and fellow students are Black. When everyone is actively engaged in the process of learning and growing, not just about academics, but also about history and culture. Maybe it was because she recognized that some of the best academic programs our city had to offer weren't at the nearby Catholic school or Joe Schmo White School, but in historically Black neighborhoods, like the one that she was raised in and where our grandmother lived.

But at the end of the day, that's high school, or middle school, or some other school that's in the past. So anyone that carries that experience around like a badge of honor, please shut up and sit down.

--Whitney