If you were to look at me there is really only one physical attribute that would be instantly apparent. I am, unfortunately, not the star athlete on the football team so my biceps tend to disappoint. My face and my eyes are a color somewhere in between mud and dirt. The feature that is immediately noticeable when you look at me is my skin. I’m black, been black all my life. My parents are black, and my grandparents are black. At night, you can barely see me especially if I take off my shirt and in pictures you can normally see nothing of my face except the whites of my teeth if I smile. This was an aspect of my life I had essentially accepted without much question. I knew that either I was black, or the brownish tinge of my eyes did more than fend off cute blondes. However, the fourth week of school after moving to Kentucky in the ninth grade, the kid sitting next to me in English class asked something which I had never been asked before. Why don’t you act black?
It’s a question I had never really considered. I mean, I’m black, but I have always acted like…well, myself. Though I suppose if you consider it critically I don’t fit the picture which society has accepted as the idea of what a black person is supposed to sound or act like. I don’t wear my pants so big I could be carrying around a car inside. I listen to rap music, but not only rap music. I like to read, write and my knowledge base extends beyond that of what one would learn in “the hood.”
My mind was swimming in a pool deep with thought. Of course I don’t fit that stereotype, who would want to? African Americans are portrayed across the country as scoundrels, the dust at the bottom of the Captain Crunch which no one is excited to come across. Even in my own school, however unintentional, I tend to distance myself from the black student who “act black.” I wanted nothing to do with them. I wanted people to respect me. To look up to me.
However naive or insignificant the question poised by the kid sitting next to me in English class seemed at the time to him, to me, it launched a bit of an introspective journey. For a long time, I hid from the truth. I knew I was different but I was almost ashamed to admit it. However, in that day, in that class, I came out. I’m not an “Oreo,” black on the outside, and white on the inside. I’m not a “zebra,” half black and half white. I’m me. I turned to the kid and said simply. “I do.” I am black, and I am proud.