I volunteered to help out with White History Month at my church.

I sat in on some planning sessions, and I wrote a few perspective pieces (from the perspective of white men and women) for the role-play.

Only a few people knew that I’d written them, so many were surprised to learn later that the perspectives were mine. My friends boasted that I was such a talented writer for fooling everyone into believing that they were written by someone white.

I smiled graciously.

They were easy to write. Before I was black on both sides, I was white.

When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. It started because I was a square peg coveting circles.

It started because I stuck out everywhere, even when I didn’t want the attention. Even when race and gender didn’t play a role, I just didn’t seem to belong anywhere.

I struggled to build connections and make real friends. I struggled to find people who cared about me and cared about the things I was interested in too.

2

I wanted to be a stunt double.
I loved Kiefer Sutherland and Robin Williams.
I aspired to play beach volleyball professionally, and I wanted to go to USC.

I wore penny loafers and loved Clueless (the movie and t.v. show). I loved Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.

I preferred my hair lighter– blond and curly. I went by Yvonne because it seemed less ethnic. It seemed less stereotypically black than “Anjeanette.”

I liked MMbop and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and I wore faux pearls and french buns like Audrey Hepburn.

I studied Latin in high school. And then again in college. And then after college I became a Latin tutor.

I was colorblind and compassionate. Race didn’t matter. Race didn’t exist.

We all sank or swam by our own merit. I am the captain of my ship. I am the master of my sailWe all should be held accountable for our choices. Poor people were poor because they made bad choices. 

Before I was black on both sides, I was white.

Sometimes being black was too frustrating. There were too many rules, too many micromanagers. I didn’t speak the way I should. I couldn’t dance or double-dutch. I didn’t play the right sports or have the right friends.

1

I started to become white because the white people I knew were overwhelmingly, amazingly kind.

There was a different expectation for their families and their children. There was a different expectation of their value, motivation, and drive. Different expectations and belief in their capacity and willingness to be good people, to be upstanding citizens, to be voters, caretakers, stewards, and lovers. Different expectations of their ability to create wealth. They were leaders and thinkers and visionaries and romantic leads in the most popular films. There was a different expectation of their ability to be human.

A few days ago Anthony Stephan House was killed by a package bomb in Austin, Texas. A few days after that seventeen-year-old Draylen Mason was killed too. The bombs were delivered to their homes, and investigators believe the attacks were related. According to reports, both families knew each other. The killings are presumed to be racially motivated, and both deceased victims are black.

My lord.

You don’t get to decide.

You don’t get to decide who I am, or who I should be, or how I should behave.
You don’t get to decide how I should dress, or write, or whether or not I subscribe to the respectability politics you created in order to silence me.
You don’t get to speak for me, or on behalf of me, or for the sake of “empowering” me.
You don’t get to decide whether I’m black enough, or not black enough, or too black.
You don’t get to decide who I can love, or where I can worship, or what I have a right to.

You don’t get to decide whether I’m “articulate” or “especially motivated” or “driven.”

You don’t get to decide.

You don’t get to decide how I should wear my hair or what I should value.
You don’t get to decide whether or not I’m beautiful.
You don’t get to decide whether I have a right to simply, live.

You don’t get to decide.

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