I can’t count how many times I have found myself using a different voice or censoring myself when I talk to people who are not black. Why? Because I don’t want to fit the stereotype of the typical black person. If I am in a social setting where I am the only black person, my voice changes to something more “white”. My diction changes, I find myself substituting basic words with bigger words, eliminating slang words. I find myself trying not to sound “too black.”
I need to sound smarter, I need to show these people that I am not like the “others.”
But who are the others? Who am I trying so hard to distance myself from?
The “others” are a preconceived notion that white people have of black people. Me being black means that I am ghetto, loud, unintelligent. Me being black means that I am less.
Since I was little it was ALWAYS emphasized in my house that some white people would never see me as their equal. No matter how high my grades are, how nice I dress, how much money I make, they would still see me as lower than them. If you’re intelligent then you’re a rare breed. A black person in the honors program? Say it ain’t so.
Turns out I was that rare breed. All throughout middle school and high school I saw myself in honors class after honors class being the only black person or maybe one of two. I saw myself get self-conscious. I felt that everyone was looking at me like I was an outsider and I needed to prove to everyone that I did belong there, that I was also smart, and I also deserved to be there.
There’s an episode of ‘A Different World’ where Dwayne, one of the main characters, gives his class a lesson on race in America. He says that “regardless of your degree, I am telling you they will think you know less than you do, because you are black. You have to be better, WE have to be better.”
But even if we are better, and do better is it enough?
When some of us work our butts off to get to top tier schools there’s always going to be someone who says that it was affirmative action. There’s always going to be someone there to try and discredit your hard-work.
The President of The United States is a black man. A black man that worked his butt off to get where he is today. Barack Obama graduated from the best, if not the best law schools in the world, and yet there are still people questioning the fact that he even attended. There are still people who ask for proof. What more proof do they need?
I know that everyone is not like this, and there are probably more good people in the world than bad. We don’t notice the good people do we though? The voice that stands out in the crowd will always be the negative one, and the negative one pushes me to tone down my blackness.