I used to be afraid of my blackness.
Did I say afraid?
Ok, let’s start over.
I used to be ashamed of my blackness. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I used to hate my blackness.
Ahh, there it is, the honest truth: I hated myself for being black, and I hated blackness.
There was a time when I would look in the mirror and feel incredibly dejected. I was ugly, my big nose and round eyes were problematic, but the most troubling trait was my skin. I was ashamed of my black skin, and everything it represented, or at least what I thought that representation meant. I thought it was the color of ghetto, violence, ignorance, slavery, failure, laziness and weakness. Black people were weak, and lazy, and I hated that I was a part of this. The darkness of my skin made me a card-carrying member of the world’s problem children. But I didn’t want to be the problem child, I wanted a choice.
When all you ever see and all that is ever said are negative things about the people who look and sound like you, how could you ever be proud of that?
I wanted to prove that I was better than the people around me so I started to resent who and what I was. When all you ever see and all that is ever said are negative things about the people who look and sound like you, how could you ever be proud of that? I wasn’t, so I started to separate myself.
I wanted to be white. Whiteness was the only way to achieve equality, it was the only way to be seen through a lens that I thought was fair. I started off with little things. I tried to learn the mannerisms of Zach Morris from “Saved by the Bell.” He was the example of whiteness that I aimed to achieve. I looked for ways to make my hair straighter and softer, kept my distance from darker skinned people, stopped listening to rap music and tried to engulf myself in what I understood to be “white culture”.
There weren’t any white women in East New York, Brooklyn so I made it a personal mission to only date very fair-skinned black and Spanish girls with blonde hair.
I started putting bleach in the tub when I showered. I would scrub the rag against my skin with the hope that the blackness would magically fade away, but it wouldn’t.
I would look down on people who looked just like me. I was someone who would have defended racist Steve Bannon, called Mike Brown a “thug,” and even supported a Donald Trump presidency ― all in the name of being seen as “not like them.” This is a compliment that the institution of whiteness saves only for its most loyal blacks. The ultimate high was to get white approval, so I spent countless days trying to convince them that I was one of the “good ones.” I would laugh at black jokes, and I’d cosign white friends who thought black people should get over slavery.
I don’t think many people understand how deep this kind of self-hate goes. I was so disgusted with my blackness that I was willing to wash away everything I had ever known and loved, all for the sake of getting a seat at the table. I wanted to be the coveted negro in the room, the token black guy, to be tolerated or, if I was lucky enough, liked. I looked in the mirror and would become distressed, feeling my dark skin and big lips were deterring me from reaching my potential. I would fantasize about having blond hair and blue eyes, then marvel at how much better life would be.
So yeah, I used to be afraid of my blackness, and I did everything I could to run away from it. But as some smart person, from some good book or a shitty movie remake once said, “no matter where you go, there you are.”
I can’t tell you when the switch flipped. I just know that one day I woke up, and began to see the error of my ways. The Republican Party played huge role in my awakening. After years of courting white people in the Grand Old Party, I got tired of being disrespected because of my skin color. When you work your entire life to appease the institute of whiteness, and see others who have gone as far or further than you still suffering from racism, it makes you start to wonder what the point is. I think the “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman was my first serious wakeup call.
There would soon be others to follow. Sometimes, I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach ― the fear that my life will never be good, and that I will be broken because of my blackness.
There are days where I feel the urge to adjust my behavior in order to gain acceptance from white folk. The difference between now and a couple years ago? I now know “White acceptance” is about as real as the “Working Class White Man who would vote for a progressive candidate if only we stopped talking about identity politics.” They’re both unrealistic and a waste of everyone’s time.
When I think about how deeply I hated myself, it’s almost shocking. I spent years trying to erase an identity, just to get some kudos from white supremacists and racially ignorant “progressives.” I have come a long way, but if we’re being honest, as much I’ve grown to love myself, it will always be a part of me. I will struggle with bouts of self-hatred for as long as I live.
I used to hate my blackness, but now I adore it.
This was originally posted on Stanley’s Medium account.