Monday, November 28, 2011

Being black is really weird sometimes...

A lot of people have preconceived notions about who I am without even asking. They assume I like watermelon or that I listen to rap or that my hair isn’t real. If I walk into a room and I’m the only black person, I usually never notice until someone else points it out first. I just don’t think about stuff like that.

Before school was out for Thanksgiving break, I found a post in the green room for the CBS Diversity Institute. It’s a 12-week writing program for “people of color.”

Besides the basic application and a writing sample, they want a letter of interest. They want to know why I’m interested in the program and what it is like being a “writer of color.”


Can we rewind a little bit?

When I was growing up, I was discriminated against a lot in some of most devastating ways. I wasn’t allowed in an Asian friend’s house because her father “didn’t know anything about black people.” And once at the playground, a ball rolled to me by accident and upon picking it up to throw it back to its owners I was told, “don’t touch our ball you nigger.”

It didn’t take me long to realize my skin came with a price. It was like I was born under some kind of burden to fight a fight that I didn’t start.

Even though people are racist, I don’t need anybody’s pity or special treatment. I don’t want to be held back in life because I’m black, but I don’t want to achieve because I’m black either. I want to be judged based on my ability and skills and talents. I want people to see me for my honesty and integrity and personality. Isn’t that what MLK wanted?

I guess my question is...what am I supposed to say in this letter? That I’m proud to be a black writer? Of course I am, but should it even matter what my skin color is at this point? I have been black for 28 years and if I live to be 100, that’s 72 more years of being black. Do I really need to keep dwelling on it?

Sometimes I feel like programs like this are the reason we can’t move forward. No one is ever going to get over anyone’s race if we keep putting ourselves in these closed off groups and jerking each other off. I know that I’m black. I have a mirror and I look at myself everyday. I’m well aware. But my skin doesn’t define me. My skin is not all that I am.

So I guess my questions for today whites have to write essays about what it’s like to be white? If I were white, would I not be able to apply for this program? Is this a form of “reversed discrimination?” Do other minorities feel the same way I do?

*photo from


  1. Well you I'll answer. You make some excellent points and like you note, who wants to keep dwelling on it. I guess the only benefit, if you can really call it that about being white is that we aren't allowed to dwell on life crapping on you because as you note, it does so often.

    When I went to college, I had a white female friend who got married and when she did, her last name changed to Hernandez. Her yearly financial aid reward suddenly and dramatically INCREASED. There were times I was not allowed into friends houses but it was because my parents were almost the town drunks and because we were poor. Of course we could never be poor because we were white, I am often told.

    Everyone is called names on playground and in middle School and high school. People automatically go to what they think will hurt you most and if that is skin color they use it. If you play sports, they call you a dumb jock, even if you are on honor roll or carrying a 4.0 GPA. If you are pretty girl they declare you are stuck up and a slut.

    The real point is that people are young, stupid and cruel and the only real reason this changes as they get older is they are too busy working and trying to keep a roof over their head to have time to act like an ass. (Just have your kid beat their kid in swim or soccer though and watch the same old bullshit rise up again though.)

    Skin color is no different than any other body trait. I'm of the view that anyone who thinks it gives you unique thoughts or a unique voice are just buying nonsense. If someone told me I could never understand or walk in the shoes of someone because their eyes are blue and mine are brown, I'd say they are full of crap.

    So to go to the first question, do whites have to write essays about being white? No. Being white is considered normative. You could never use it as a source of conflict or a problem. It would be like writing a story about eating breakfast. I could never write a story where someone called me a bunch of names and where it made me question myself and possibly stunted my personal development but I somehow overcame it while being white. People would just tell me to shut up, get over myself and move on with life.

    However the reality is that most ethnicities are also normative and just variations on a theme within our culture. One of the most insidious thoughts I believe someone can put into the brain of a person of color is the belief that they are somehow NOT normative because they are and we all are normal. The human condition is a universal one and your voice as such can speak to everyone. I hope it does and good luck in your writing endeavors.

    1. Thanks for the response! I'm glad that I'm not the only person who thinks like this! :)


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