This is my face. I look brown, but I don’t all the time look “Black”, and this is always evident to me, but especially so when I am surrounded by Black women, which is rare.
Learning to love yourself after everything I’ve been through is really difficult, but it would be a lot easier if the Black community would accept that the world sees me as one of them.
They can support Beyonce, so why am I any different? Granted I am no Beyonce, I’m a writer not a Demi Goddess, but still….don’t I deserve a tenth as much respect? Should the color of my skin really matter that much?
Ask any White person who knows me and they will tell you that I am Black, ask any Brown or Black person and they will tell you that I am “Half-Black”, and there is a huge difference between the two.
Yesterday I joined a Conversation with Writers, Publishers and Content Creators hosted by Black Girls Write Too. It was the first time I’d been in any kind of group, surrounded by Black women before.
When it came time to introduce myself I noticed I didn’t talk as much as the other women. Not only because it was my chance to listen and learn, but because as I looked at the half dozen or so women in the group, I realized I didn’t feel like I belonged, because the color of my skin isn’t dark enough.
More than once I got up to go do something else, partially because I was making dinner, but partially because I wanted to cry at how “not Black” I felt.
I don’t ever feel like I fit in. I am far more comfortable with White people than I am with Black people, because I was raised by a single White woman, and while my mom did a really great job, (I think,) teaching us about our heritage wasn’t as important to her as making sure we learned to survive anything the world had to throw at us.
I hesitate to share my work with other Black women, because my experience is so different from theirs, because they are Black.
You can tell they are Black by looking at them, they are beautiful because of their Blackness, they are beautiful in spite of their Blackness, but me? I’m somewhere in the middle, and I’ve spent a life time learning that people don’t like those who are in between.
Colorism is absolutely real. So is LGBTQ hatred in the Black community, but that’s a conversation for another day.
I am absolutely affected by what happened to George Floyd, but more so by Breonna Taylor. I could have been her. I’ve had cops in my house, not by choice. I’ve been taken out of my house in handcuffs, and honestly I think the only reason I was able to stay so calm was because my mom was here at home when it happened. It could have been very different however.
White people don’t see my Whiteness when I walk down the street, I feel like I have to smile even when I don’t feel like smiling so that people know that I am safe that I mean them no harm.
I have to be ten times more polite than people who are white, even when I don’t feel like it, because I am afraid of how they will react. I am absolutely terrified that I will say or do something that will offend White people.
I am constantly trying to feel like I fit in, and it doesn’t really matter who I am with or where I am going, when I am surrounded by Black people I constantly feel the need to be “on” as if I somehow have to prove my Blackness.
I didn’t grow up learning about Black culture, what I know about Black culture I learned mostly on my own. With the exception of a few years where my mom used to curl up with us to watch movies about Motown, I honestly don’t have a huge catalog of Black films and television to lean on to teach me who I am supposed to be.
Like many White people around the world, I am learning as I go, but it’s fucking hard, and it’s especially hard when I see what happens to Black people who are just trying to breath.
The thing is that not teaching your kids about Black history, is a microaggression, and it’s something that we absolutely need to improve upon.
I’m so not Black, in my habits, that I don’t even know how to take care of my hair, which is why I cut most of it off. It became too much, too emotionally overwhelming to deal with all the curls, so I shaved half my head….then I realized I should have shaved the other half too, so it grows evenly and healthy again.
Everything about who I am is influenced by White culture, because that’s how I was raised. Granted there were a few years when I was surrounded by my Baboo and his family, but those years were not nearly enough to help me form a healthy idea of who I should be. They weren’t enough to teach me that the color of my skin would matter so much to the rest of the world.
There are a lot of White people on Twitter who want me to teach them how to support Black artists, who to support, and the answer is, the honest answer is that I don’t really know. I am only just starting to learn myself, and none of this has to do with self hatred.
It’s absolute fear of being told that I am not Black, which happened once, it was heart breaking to try and introduce myself to a Black woman in my community only to have her tell me that I am not Black.
We talk a lot about racism but we don’t talk often enough about checking our own privilege. I didn’t choose to be born Black, but I would like to believe that given the choice I absolutely would have, because I consider it a privilege and an honor to be Black.
Even if it’s only half.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall