Hi my name is Leila. I love Rock & Country music. In January I listened to 8,160 minutes of Coldplay radio on Pandora. Yes, 8,160 minutes. That’s 136 hours. That’s almost 6 days. My top 3 artists on Spotify for 2017 were Coldplay, John Mayer, and Migos.
After reading all of that, if you didn’t already know that I was a black woman.. would you have guessed it?
I’m guessing.. No
For the majority of my life I have been told that I am not black enough… In certain circles this has been a bad thing, and in some it has been praised. When I’m around black people I’m seen as “too white” and sometimes “bougie.” Apparently when you speak proper English and don’t act the way a “stereotypical” black person is supposed to act then that makes you white? I didn’t know it worked like that.
Around white people, I’m praised for being more like them, I’m seen as harmless. Not one of those blacks. As a young kid I used to love the “praises”, I loved being seen as the “cultured negro”, the token black friend. I thought that I was better than those “ghetto” kids.
For years I commended myself for being “in” with the white kids. Not knowing that I was living a life of self-hatred. It wasn’t until this one day in middle school that my point of view changed.
I was sitting in the back of my 7th grade history class with a group of my white friends and a known racist in our class told me that he hated niggers, but he didn’t have a problem with me cause I didn’t act like the rest of them. Although I was too young to really understand exactly what those words meant, I knew that I should be offended, I knew that it wasn’t a compliment. I finally came to the understanding that they weren’t praising me for being myself, but rather for not being what they thought I should be.
Now I’m a sophomore in college, it’s been about 7 years since that incident in the 7th grade and I’m still going through the same dilemma. Over the years, I’ve stopped caring about what my white counterparts thought about my blackness. Who were they to dictate how black I was? What did they know about being black? But something I still struggle with to this day is being comfortable in my own definition of blackness around other black people. I find myself changing the way I speak when I’m in environments with mostly black people, I lower my music when I walk through crowds listening to John Mayer or Linkin Park. I am a completely different person. But why?
A few weeks back I told this black girl that I loved John Mayer and she said “oh yeah, I like some of that white music too.” I expected the response, but I was still shocked. What made the music white? Was it the artist? The people who listened to it? Are we only allowed to listen and enjoy music created by our own?
In comparison to white people, black people tend to only listen to “black music.” We stick to the artists who look like us and rarely venture out of our comfort zone. White people on the other hand will listen to any and everything. Regardless of the race, color, or ethnicity of the person who created it, if it bumps then it’s going to get played. It seems that they have been granted a privilege that many young black kids were not. They’re allowed to be their true self. This is one of the only things I envy about white people.
When people ask me what type of music I like I usually lie. I don’t want funny looks, I don’t want to get laughed at. When I’m asked what my favorite movies are I’ll skip “Girl Interrupted” or “13 Going on 30” and say something like “Love & Basketball.” In the rare occasions that I actually tell the truth and say “Coldplay” or “The Fray”, I find myself anxious for the response, expecting ridicule and feeling sheer relief when I actually get acceptance.
When it comes to the black community, I personally think that we have some of the strictest criteria on whether you fit in or not. Unless you can check all of these boxes then you can’t sit with us. Whether you’re too light, or too dark, or think that ‘Friday’ is the best movie ever made, then that determines where you are placed on the spectrum of blackness. Rather than accept the fact that we are all unique and that’s what makes us beautiful, we work overtime to deepen the racial divide in our communities. What good does it do to anyone to constantly make people feel like they don’t measure up? How can we progress and learn different things about each other when we’re all just trying to be the same?
We need to stop acting like there’s only one type of black person. We need to accept the fact that black people come in different shapes, sizes, colors. We are allowed to like country music, and binge-watch “Friends” as much as we’re allowed to whip our necks to “New Freezer” and watch “Living Single.”
Just because I’m not what you think I should be, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.