Can you imagine being uncomfortable and not “fitting in” with those who look like you? Those individuals who should understand what you go through and to whom you’d run to for solace but instead you feel like an outsider?
That’s how it was for one black writer, Danielle Small.
The New York based writer and author of “Confessions of a Token Black Girl” recently wrote an essay for Salon explaining her particular story with being black and feeling awkward around others that looked like her.
Small began the piece by sharing a story where she was put to the “black test” while in the hair salon.
“It happened. I failed the “black” test. My hair stylist and I were chatting while she was taking a break from retightening my locs. I made a funny quip, and she extended her palm so that we could partake in the standard Black American handshake. In what was most likely the longest three seconds in the universe, I stared at her hand in befuddlement, trying to figure out what she was doing. By the time I realized that this was the handshake, it was too late. I tried to recover with some weird amalgamation of a fist bump and a high five, but the damage had been done. I had revealed myself to be the Carlton to her Fresh Prince.”
As I read this with a wrinkled questioning brow, my first thought was, Wait. What is the Black American handshake? Do I know it? I don’t think I do. But hey I’m more of a hugger anyway!
I have never questioned my “blackness” or the ability to be 3-Dimensional and adapting to different social situations all while being myself.
But the fact is some do.
Small shared the fact that she grew up in a predominately white town in Wisconsin where she heard “you’re not black” more than she heard the n-word.
This fear of not being black enough resulted in her not pursing higher education at a historically black college or university.
It wasn’t until she was having a conversation with a black friend from Harlem who expressed that her level of blackness was questioned as well due to her love for heavy metal music.
An entirely different dynamic than her own but yet similar parallels. At this point they both fought the fact of having their own blackness “invalidated by superficial parameters.”
She concludes with,
“It’s taken some time, but now I’m aware that there is no “black test” and that, even though I’m more Carlton than Fresh Prince, my blackness is still valid.”
There are 50 shades of black and that’s the beauty of it. Everyone is their own individual. Just because you listen to a specific genre of music or talk a certain way doesn’t discredit your “blackness.”
You don’t have to be anyone you’re not. Just be yourself and people will love you.
What about you, have you ever questioned your level of blackness or felt like it was being put to the test?
You can read Small’s full piece here.