Written By Victoria B. – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series
What are you? You’re not from here, are you? You’re not really black, though.
All my life I have been faced with these kind of questions and statements from friends, teachers, and even random strangers. The combination of comments about my “unique” color, coupled with people feeling the need to touch my hair without invitation has made me feel different. They may not seem rude or invasive to those who ask them but to me, and other mixed people I have met, they are. When we explain where we come from, we are met with uninvited input on our heritage and identity. In fact, this happens so much that you start to question your own identity. Fortunately, I was raised by a mother who not only loves her melanin, but celebrates it as well.
“You’re so exotic.” The person who said this tried to use it as a compliment but quite honestly, it felt isolating. To be treated as a deviation from the norm makes it hard to fit in with the people around you. It’s like you can’t quite fit in one box or the other. I also come across people who feel the need to touch my hair and comment in utter fascination on its texture and length while exclaiming that it can’t be all mine. I am not a personal petting zoo. This display of different levels of ignorance is exhausting. But instead of getting upset I strive to turn my frustrations into teachable moments. I let them know that it isn’t okay to touch another person without invitation even if they mean no harm.
My history. I come from a cultural mosaic, if you will. I was born on a small beautiful island in the Caribbean that belongs to Colombia. The whole island is a blend of different races, cultures, and languages that melt to become one identity, Raizal. This multi-ethnic identity is due to the mixing of Spanish, Dutch, and English colonizers, enslaved Africans, and indigenous peoples.
With all that being said, I do claim my blackness. If I fill out an official document I check black for race and “of Hispanic origin”. I find it absolutely disheartening that some people succumb to institutionalized pressures to claim everything except their African ancestry. It is the sad reality that people of color have to deal with daily. It has become a sort of survival mechanism adopted by those to try to fit in with the “majority” in the environment.
On a personal note, I even had someone tell me that I am not black and tried to justify her claim by saying that I am purely Colombian. It is important to understand the difference between race and ethnicity. If we take a further look back in history, race was never a thing until the genesis of African slavery. It became a social construct created to justify the evil treatment of the people.
“Know who you are, before they tell you.” I, along with my people, am living proof that dispels the common belief that being black is one dimensional. In the words of Queen T, creator of this blog, the “Blackness is multifaceted.” Speaking a different language or being born in a different country does not mean that you are not black.
One take away I wish for anyone who reads this is to understand the power of truly knowing oneself so much that no one can come in and define who you are. You’ve already defined it for yourself.
– Victoria B., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series