I was watching a video of comedian/actor Aisha Tyler speaking at Google and it totally reminded me of so many of the things that I went though as a kid and sometimes still go through as an adult. So thanks Aisha Tyler for the blog topic. By the way click here and go check out Aisha's talk, it's really good.
Being me wasn't good enough or black enough for some. At one point in time it used to bother me when people would pose certain questions.
- 'Why are you listening to that type of music?'
- 'Did someone make you listen to that?'
- 'Why are you eating that Canadian food?' Which was just stupid because I ate food from all over the globe. Really, who cares as long it tastes good.
- 'Why are you talking like that?'
- 'No one else is around you can stop talking white.' Then the disgust when they realise that's how I really talk. Sorry to disappoint. Or when Caucasians come up to me and start talking as if they're from Jamaica, Queens, New York and they're from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I really feel embarrassed for them. Just be you, stop trying so damn hard.
Of course I know exactly what people are talking about, I just want them to come out and say what they really mean. They think I'm being authentic, not being 'real'. I didn't know that. I've never questioned them about their 'realness', so I hope I get the same back. I've always spoken the same way, so I don't understand how I'm supposed to sound. I know how others want or expect me to sound but that's not going to happen because it's not genuine for me. I guess some feel enunciation is strictly for Caucasians.
Peoples expectations haven't bothered me for a long time, thank goodness. I had to get over being annoyed at other their perceptions of what it meant to be black. You know that whole, you can only control your reactions not what other people say about you. Or something to that effect. I can never get those quotes correct.
Language. We weren't allowed to speak slang in our house. Our mother didn't allow it. Her mother didn't allow improper English either. Of course that didn't stop the patois from being learned from her friends in high school. She came to Canada so we could have a better life, get a good education. That included speaking proper English. It didn't bother me, that I didn't speak some variation of slang. What's the point in sounding as if you didn't finish the fifth grade. (Hey, it's my opinion only. There are very few reasons why anyone in a Western country shouldn't finish high school.) I didn't speak English slang but boy do I speak some Guyanese slang/patois, sometimes half the time that I speak English. For some reason that never bothered my mom. Hmm, go figure.
Clothing. I still remember what one of my high school friends brother said to me about my clothing. "I'm white and I dress blacker than you". (Stop. Picture the 90's hip/hop & preppy style. Now continue reading.) Him, dressed in baggy jeans, hanging off his butt. Long sleeve, over-sized plaid-like, button down shirt, with a white wife-beater underneath and some name brand sneakers. Me, loose jeans, turtle neck, purple cardigan, some kind of uncool shoes. I really liked that cardigan. I didn't want my jeans to hang off my butt. Baggy yes, falling off, no. I just wore what I liked, not what I was 'supposed' to wear. I guess the trend thing will never stop. Quite boring if you ask me.
Music. Oh man did I ever get made fun of for my musical choices. I hated rap back than. I liked very few hip-hop artists. I loved En Vogue, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey. I liked Nirvana, Guns n' Roses and Alice in Chains, to name a few. I got made fun of because my ballads and because black people weren't supposed to listen to rock/metal. I didn't know there were rules back than and apparently they still exist today, at least to some. It still didn't stop me from listening to what I wanted to.
Your people. Don't get me wrong, I love my people. If I didn't I couldn't love myself. I used to get this question all the time. 'Why don't you hang around other black kids?' You mean the other 3 kids that were in the school (1 of whom was my older sister)? Pressuring your kids to hang out with your friends offspring, rarely ever works. We had nothing in common with the other black kids. Why risk getting rejected by someone else? Remember the fragile teenage ego. Was I supposed to hang around someone just because they looked like me? I had my family, who were black, so it's not as if I was starving from lack of black culture. I grew up and around different races and cultures. So for me being in a 'mixed' group of people is more comfortable than being in a room full of all black people. Some may find this weird, but that's my reality.
Be yourself. Be proud of who are and what makes you unique. Be different because that's the core of who you really are, not because it's the trendy thing to do.
Growing up or even now did you get ostracised or pressured to do what was expected of you because of your race, gender or culture? Drop a comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or stories.
Till next time,