Being Black in a White World

Guest Blogs

With the passage of time and the progression of culture, the world in which we live is constantly changing. The creation of new laws and the inevitable generational turnover have had many impacts. One highly publicized change is the birth of a new age of acceptance and understanding that heralds the death of prejudice. So I thought it would only be right for me to jump on the bandwagon. As of 26 June 2015, I can marry the person of my choosing in the country I call my home. I can apply to any secondary learning institution and believe wholeheartedly that I will be judged by my merits and not by my skin or my sexuality. Equality has burst through and killed prejudice. What a time to be alive! But lingering effects remain.

I have never in my life felt oppressed or hated because of my personal demographic, so many would say that the world is a better place and we should all be happy, and I wholeheartedly wish that they were right. My point of view on culture is less common (my existence was illegal until 1967). I am biracial and gay. For most of my life, I have not been able to find a place to fit in around others. My family lived in a predominantly white neighborhood for my entire life. There were an astounding two other black students in my elementary school and the only other black people I had ever met were related to me. So I grew up sheltered with little to no idea of how the world really worked. But this all changed in cloud of hormones and awkward social interactions — middle school. Suddenly I was surrounded by other black people my own age and they seemed to gravitate towards me simply because we were both dark. I was suddenly being bombarded with a vast assortment of new slang and gestures that I was expected to know because outwardly I appeared to be a part of their culture. This is where the disparities came in.

Have you ever been asked “Did you know you talk white?” If you haven’t you’re lucky. I heard this regularly from other black people and it was never friendly. To make matters worse, I didn’t even know what it meant to “talk white” so there was no way for me to try and alleviate these mini conflicts.  After several months, I learned the meaning: to talk white is to speak in a cogent and grammatically correct manner (i.e. no slang, properly conjugated verbs and less inflection). That sounds nice at first, but this was being used as a way to ostracize me from the culture. He doesn’t speak like us, so he can’t be one of us. Personally, the most infuriating part was not even that I was being systematically removed from a culture, but that other members of said culture were putting themselves down without even realizing. If talking white was speaking properly, what does that make talking black? And this concept of colored language is widespread.

People still comment on the color of my speech to this day. Language has become a gage by which the black community often judges its members and occasionally white people do this too. You don’t talk like most black people.  Neither black nor white and gay too (but I’ll leave that for another time). Where can I even fit in when the people who actually understand what it’s like to be black in a white world.

Written by Blake Mitchell.

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