I almost didn’t get adopted by my family. My black social worker wanted me to grow up around “my own people”. My parents were ready to run away to Canada to keep me. So I could have been Canadian…interesting. But what if I had grown up around “my own people”?
It isn’t as if I didn’t know other black people as I grew up. I had a few black friends, but I wasn’t oblivious to the fact that I was different from them. I was and still am described as an Oreo; black on the outside and white on the inside. But why? Because I don’t act stereo-typically African American?
Stereotyping has always been an interest if mine. I always referred to myself as “white” because of the way I behave. I don’t act “hood”. I don’t speak the way black people stereo-typically speak, I don’t at that way either. Is it because I was raised by white parents? I have an African American brother who ” acts black” though, so is it more nature or nurture?
I actually wrote papers on this topic in school, a few times, and have reached a couple conclusions. We adapt to the situations we are placed in and adapt to feel a part of a particular group. So, my brother wanted to be accepted by black kids and started to imitate their behavior. Some African American at some point decided that black people act a certain way and “my people” began to accept and act that way in order to be accepted by their community; in order to be a part of something. My brother felt safe and felt he belonged as long as he behaved that way.
I actually didn’t hang with the people who acted out my race’s stereotype. The black friends I did have were in my same situation, they behaved “white”. I was a nerdy, cheerleader and book worm, so I gravitated towards those type of people and adopted their behavior. So, I didn’t have many black friends, even though I grew up a little ways away from L.A.
I like to think that even if I had grown up in a different situation that I would have been the same person I am now. How odd would it be to think of me as a part of my race’s stereotype? BUT there is nothing wrong with acting a certain way to belong. It is human nature. We adapt to survive. But I now know that I can be black. I can act a certain way, but not turn my back on my race. I’m just a different sort of black woman, and that is just fine.
That being said, I am more than my race. I am more than my religious or political views. I am more than what happened to me. Yes, all these factors shaped who I am but they are not what I am made of. Like MJ said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white”. What matters is who you are as a human being.