Imagine a black kid, putting books into his locker, minding his own business when suddenly, another kid shouts, “Act your color.”
This was nothing new to “the whitest black guy.”
He had trouble fitting in as a teen. Deemed “too white” for most of the black kids because of how he spoke, and “too black” for most of the white kids because of how he looked. No matter who it was, it seemed universally agreed upon:
“He’s ‘the whitest black guy.’”
This label hovered overhead for years. He could never really be himself, that role was secondary to “the black kid who talks white.”
Sometimes, he was seen as some hilarious oddity or an object of curiosity.
“You’re so ‘proper’ and ‘normal’ for a black guy.”
Other times, he was derided as someone who’d adopted their diction, and mannerisms as some sort of self-hating pushback.
“The whitest black guy” was once called a “disgrace to black people” on the busride home from school.
Our culture has these preconceptions of what a person should be, based on how they look. We judge and categorize people of different races and ethnicities using the stereotypes we’ve constructed of them, because of how easy it is..
However, it completely disregards one’s individuality, employing a “label first, learn later” approach that’s best left in the previous century.
It’s a foolishly shortsighted way of using what little we understand about one another to explain everything we don’t. When it fails and we’re too stubborn to adapt our understanding, too often do we resort to the type of labeling that created “the whitest black guy.”
Race as a concept will never change, but that doesn’t mean our attitudes can’t. We can become a more inclusive, less judgemental society. We can grow out of our reliance on stereotypes and profiling.
We can acknowledge that yes, we are all different, while refusing to let that affect the way we treat each other.
If we can achieve that someday, then the years I spent as “the whitest black guy” will have been worth it.