by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Tami Winfrey Harris
I am a black woman who has spent my life trying to explain who I am.
I am the daughter of a son of the Jim Crow South. I am a member of a black family that helped integrate a white enclave in the 70s. I am the kid who was raised in the Baptist church, but went to Hebrew nursery school at the temple on the corner. I am the girl that Chrissy W. didn’t invite to her 7th birthday party “because you’re black.” I am the student who transferred to an all-black school across town because it offered the best education. I am the teenager who listened to The Smiths and taped posters of Duran Duran to her bedroom walls. I am the girl who was teased for “acting white.” I am the girl with the hair all my white college dorm mates wanted to touch.
It seems I have spent my life being neither black enough nor white enough to fit in. When I turned 30, I stopped explaining myself and embraced the person I am. So, I’ll be proudly posting about race from the fringes–the edge of the group, the outside of the club, the bin for irregulars–the places I’ve always called home.
Three years ago, after nearly a decade living on the Southside of Chicago, surrounded by a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures, I moved with my husband and stepson to a small Midwestern suburb with a quaint town square and a scarcity of color. There is little talk of race here, but it is always in the shadows, at least for me and (I imagine) other people of color. It is tiring being “the only”…the only nappy head in the picture…the only black mom in the bleachers…the only black professional in the boardroom. I am always “the only.”
When I began blogging four months ago I was surprised how often I found myself writing about race. But maybe it is not so strange. I am a woman of color in a colorless world and I need somewhere to hash out my angst. Maybe if I can make sense of this race stuff, I can be of guidance to my stepson, raised until a few years ago in an all-black urban setting, now one of a handful of students of color in his school. Maybe I can help his sister, who feels ill at ease around white people. Maybe I can influence my six-year-old niece, who already likes the light doll better than the dark one, to embrace black beauty. Maybe I can support my 12-year-old nephew, whose speech pattern is much like my own at his age, when some black peer tells him he “talks white.” Maybe I can teach the black children in my life to feel comfortable in their skin sooner than I did.
Tami is a writer,and communications and marketing professional living in the Midwest with her husband and stepson. She blogs at What Tami Said and is a contributor to the upcoming anthology, What We Think:Gender Roles, Women’s Issues and Feminism in the 21st Century , coming to bookstores in March 2008.