This has nothing to do with mental health/illness

But it’s something I feel like talking about anyway.

As the Democratic presidential primary race drags on, I have become more acutely aware of my skin color. When I watch CNN or read the news, the political analysts are always breaking down the demographics of who’s mainly voting for Clinton (working-class whites, older women, and those with a maximum high school education) and who’s mainly voting for Obama (young people, African Americans, and affluent whites). All I hear about is race, race, race. In the end, I feel like Obama’s candidacy has brought race to the forefront not seen since, perhaps, the 1980’s.

But this post is not about politics.

I’m talking about race. I’m talking about how I don’t “feel” black. I’ve mentioned this before but it’s just a nagging part of me that won’t go away.

For example, I’m a big Neil Diamond fan. Yes. I’m a 26-year-old black female who adores Neil Diamond’s music. He’s got a new album coming out and as a result, has been doing a media blitz.

I went to the salon today and casually mentioned to my hairdresser—we’ll call her Samantha—that I was sad I missed ND night on American Idol. Her response?

“Ew! Ew! Neil Diamond? Ew! Who is that? Girl, I don’t even talk to you about music anymore. We don’t see eye-to-eye. Ew!”

That was enough to ruin the half-decent mood it had taken me all afternoon to build up. Thank God I hadn’t told her that my husband and MIL pleasantly surprised me with ND tickets for my wedding anniversary. How much lamer would I have seemed?

Samantha and I are trying to be friends apart from the salon, and now, I just don’t know anymore. We have very little in common. Apparently, I’m pretty dull for a 26 y/o black chick: I don’t watch TV (I catch it when my husband has it on), I don’t care for movies all that much, I like sports, I play video games, I blog and surf “teh Internets,” and I don’t like the music that “typical black people” like. I’d take a Neil Diamond concert over Jay-Z or Mary J. Blige anyday. This is anathema to your average black person.

But I don’t like basketball. How could a black person NOT like basketball? Oh no! Another anathema.
I didn’t vote for Obama. Heaven forbid.

interracial coupleI married a white guy. I have forsaken my own race.

I don’t like BET’s Comicview. In fact, I don’t really care for BET. I should be disowned by my family.

I don’t like Young Jeezy, Chris Brown, or Soulja Boy. The only reason I know who they are is because their names pop up on iTunes’s top 10 songs of the week. I’ve never really heard their music. Don’t tell any of my black peers that. It’d make me an Uncle Tom.

Samantha’s reaction sent my memories flying back to high school when my black friend, Melissa, had similar reactions to nearly everything I did. I “talked” white. I “acted” white. She scrunched up her face in disgust when I introduced her to one of my best friends who happened to be white. At our eighth-grade dance, she gave one of the black guys in my class a lecture for headbanging to Green Day, an alternative band with a “punk” sound.

My black peers can’t believe it when I tell them I’ve never seen Boyz N’ the Hood, Barbershop, or Madea’s Family Reunion. I saw Kings of Comedy one time and thought it was incredibly unfunny. Maybe I’m not black enough to get black humor.

Now, I’m around white people and I think, I’m the only black person here. The funny thing is, they never seem to notice that I’m black. I’ve noticed that white people are better at treating me like I’m a person rather than a black person. Maybe that’s because I’m an Uncle Tom or a sellout. I know I need to focus on people and their personalities rather than just skin color but slight differences like Samantha’s reaction to my musical tastes remind me that I’m not who I’m “supposed” to or should be.

By the way, I’d be curious to know if any of my readers are black.

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6 Comments

  1. Gianna said,

    May 3, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Marissa,
    something that struck me in reading what you say makes you not feel black is that you are holding up pop culture as the defining factor…
    I don’t like pop culture in general—white or black.
    How about just being who you are…comparisons are odious or so they say.
    That being said, I realize that being black in America is tough for a multitude of reasons…your reasons may be different than what seems like the stereotyping above…but nonetheless I don’t pretend to know what it feels like.
    I do think there are probably a lot of people just like you who don’t identify with popular culture…my cousins being two of them…they just don’t give a poop. (trying to avoid getting thrown into spam)
    My cousins are biracial…I don’t know if that makes it different or not in your mind…people who don’t know them just assume they are black. And they’ve certainly had to deal with being black men in America all their lives (screwed up run ins with the law and such just for looking the way they do)
    I’m babbling…anyway….I’m sorry you’re struggling with this…I hope you come to peace with it.

  2. May 3, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Where I work, I am the only “white” girl. Everyone else is black (and one Puerto Rican). When I started there, there was a few other whites-but now I’m the only one.
    I give all my coworkers credit, none of them have ever made me feel out of place because of my race, though, obviously at times someone might make a comment that just goes over my head.
    I’m exposed to a lot of the “black” pop culture. Some of it I’ve liked, some I haven’t.
    I kind of wonder how my coworkers feel about me and my race. I’d be curious to see how they see me.

  3. Prester John said,

    May 4, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Race is touchy and I’m a coward. A couple of observations perhaps.
    First of all, you and your hair dresser probably have next to nothing in common. You’re intelligent and educated. She’s not educated unless she’s an excentric, follow your bliss sort of gal. You probably intimidate her. While I’m not educated (formally) I look and sound like I might be, at least to people who aren’t. A lot of the rednecks down here resent me because I think I’m better than them. Not true. I just don’t like them.
    Second, it’s often said that “you can choose your friends but not your family”. Perhaps you can choose your acquaintances, but in my experience we have no more control over who our friends turn out to be than we do over who we fall in love with.
    Third, and please don’t think equating my dilemma with what you experience being in between two worlds, but my parents divorced when I was six and I still don’t feel like I really fit or am a part of either family. I won’t go so far as to say my two families are from different cultures but the way they live and believe is about as different as night and day.
    Lastly, when I think of you I think of you as black person — because you are black. People that pretend they don’t notice what skin color other have are liars I think. What I mostly think of when I think of you is that you’re smart, educated, a born-again Christian, a woman, someone with a mental illess, someone who is always nice to me that just happens to be black.
    Take care.

  4. May 5, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I agree with Prester John that the difference in education level could be partly what’s creating the distance between you and your hairdresser. That being said, I am a university student and am often amazed at the lack of open-mindedness among some of my peers.
    Since you were wondering if you have any black readers, I will tell you that I am white. I have only read your blog a few times as I came across it just last week; however, I haven’t wondered whether you are black or white. Although I did assume you were a Madonna fan, as I believe that is her picture on the above left. 😉
    I think that any person with an intelligent interest in your topic is bound to return to your site, regardless of race.
    At one time I had a lot of social anxiety to do with whether people thought I was smart enough, etc. Did I just say something stupid? Was it said well enough to convey just what I meant and not be misinterpreted? One social worker I had as a teenager told me that we often give these worries more weight than the people we are communicating with do. Generally, the person you’re interacting with is more self-interested than concerned with how you are presenting yourself.
    It sounds like you have run into some people who have made you feel particularly self-conscious regarding the issue you described, which is unfortunate. I would suspect that the silent majority is not concerned with how well you mesh with one race or the other upon meeting you. If people seem caught off guard by you, maybe it is because they haven’t recently run into a young woman as intelligent and self-aware as you are.

  5. Nancie said,

    May 5, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Marissa,
    I am neither black nor white. I think I am orange or something. What do they call the Chinese?
    It’s sad that there’s still so much discrimination between races or colours of our skin or hairs.
    I think we are all unique and special. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
    You are a lovely person. It doesn’t matter to me what colour you are 🙂
    You are precious to me and to God.
    Have a blessed week ahead, sweetie 🙂

  6. Duane Sherry said,

    May 5, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Marissa,
    My wife is Hispanic, and my boys are half-Hispanic, and half – all kinds of things (Irish, Scottish, Italian).
    So, we have a few ‘races’ in our home….Hispanic (coming from Mexian Indian), White, and mixed….
    And, you know – I think it makes it pretty special….
    I tell my boys to be proud of who they are…..
    My oldest has gone through a bit of discrimation at school – His middle name is Santos – and his friends tell him ‘he isn’t Hispanic’….
    It’s an overused term perhaps, but I’m gonna say it anyway – our blood is the same color, and we truly are brothers and sisters…..
    I’m white, and the best man in our wedding, and the best friend I ever met in my life is black, and also blind….
    Ironically, he’s never seen my color – and it wouldn’t change the deep friendship we’ve had for over twenty years if he were able to see the difference in our ‘color’….
    Duane


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