I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Which also meant that I didn’t grow up in the stereotypical hood that America thinks all black people come from. I was the only black person in class for most of my elementary education. I grew up in city-suburbia and not the inner-city. I have been reading on my own since the tender age of 2. I inhale books like competitive eaters devour food. I wrote my first book in the first grade. I may not be the most eloquent person, but I know my way around a dictionary. My Grandmother kept 2 enormous dictionaries in the house just so I could look up words she used that I didn’t understand. I knew what lackadaisical meant by the time I was 7.
Keep in mind that I grew up in New England. When my Grandparents moved us out to the midwest while I was in middle school, I was surrounded by black/brown people. More than what I had experienced back home. I got bullied for how I wore my hair, what I wore, and most of all, how I spoke.
“Why do you talk so proper? You sound like a white girl.” I cannot even count how many times I heard this in middle school and even into my high school days. The fact that black people associate a good education and literacy as a solely white attribute is just another example of systematic oppression. The fact that other black people told me that by using my words and having articulate control was me emulating a ‘white girl’ is proof that the black community has been brainwashed to think that we are less than our white counterparts.
For some reason, we have it in our heads that education can only be obtained if your skin is white. For one reason or another, the is a double standard within our own community. We are pressed to seek education as our salvation from societal slavery but then we are stereotyped into the category of “trying to be white.”
This is insulting to the entire black community.
I am a black woman. I am fluent in English and African-American Vernacular (AAV). Because of where I come from and how I grew up, I know that there is a time and a place for AAV (more commonly known as Ebonics). I learned from a young age the importance of making other people feel comfortable. It was important for my survival. And still is.
My Grandmother raised me to speak my mind–she did not raise a fool. At the same time, she taught me that there is a certain way one can express themselves with dignity. We don’t have to show our behind every time we want to get our point across.
It is infuriating to be told that I sound like a white woman. What does that even mean? What is sounding white, exactly? What is sounding black, for that matter? We are all speaking English.
I have begun wondering if the way I speak is seen as a threat or betrayal to my peers. The way I look at it, Massa didn’t want us to read because they knew that black people built this country and if they had the tools, they could take back what was theirs. The same is true about today’s America. Black and Brown people built this country. America was built on stolen land with free labor.
If we appropriately equip and educate ourselves, we can take back the Throne. Our ancestors blood is in this soil and I’ll be damned if I let it be in vain.
Moral of the story: Eff your stereotype. I speak like a well-read black woman.