What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl (for Those of You Who Aren’t)
By Patricia Smith
First of all, it’s being 9 years old and
feeling like you’re not finished, like your
edges are wild, like there’s something,
everything, wrong. it’s dropping food coloring
in your eyes to make them blue and suffering
their burn in silence. it’s popping a bleached
white mophead over the kinks of your hair and
primping in front of the mirrors that deny your
reflection. it’s finding a space between your
legs, a disturbance at your chest, and not knowing
what to do with the whistles. it’s jumping
double dutch until your legs pop, it’s sweat
and vaseline and bullets, it’s growing tall and
wearing a lot of white, it’s smelling blood in
your breakfast, it’s learning to say fuck with
grace but learning to fuck without it, it’s
flame and fists and life according to motown,
it’s finally having a man reach out for you
then caving in
around his fingers.
If you know me, you know that I'm a mixed girl. My mom is white and my dad is black. Before I tell you why this poem speaks so deeply to me, let me relay some of the comments that I hear from my friends, family and even strangers regularly.
"Your hair is so soft! ....for a black girl."
"Black people aren't supposed to have freckles, right?"
"What are you?"
"Can I touch your hair?"
"You act so white!"
"Why are you trying so hard to act black?"
"You're not black."
"You don't act black enough."
"You're definitely more white than black."
"You talk like a white girl."
"You have a pretty big nose for a white girl."
I could actually go on for days with comments from people who probably don't even realize how ignorant they sound. Let's clear something up: I don't act white, and I don't act black. I think that is one of the most ignorant things a person can say. Not only are you enforcing racial stereotypes by saying that someone is "acting" like a specific race, you are implying that I should act a certain way. I want to tell you what it's like to be a mixed girl (for those of you who aren't). I'm not quite as eloquent as Patricia Smith, but here goes...
Being a mixed girl is
always having to walk a thin line between not being "too black" and not being "too white"
it's wondering why your hair isn't straight like your white friends', and why it's not as curly as your black friends'
it's the constant struggle of not knowing just how to define yourself
it's being asked "what are you?"
and receiving compliments... always qualified by: "for a black girl"
or, "for a white girl"
it's trying constantly to be accepted for who you are
it's spending hours straightening your hair each morning
and perfecting that 'white girl voice'.it's spending hours, days, weeks looking for the perfect products
that will give you just the right curl in your hair
it's the men that want to 'try a black girl'
it's never being black enough and never being white enough
it's never enough.
There are always going to be people who are too ignorant to realize that making comments on how a person should act based on their race isn't right. I don't waste my time getting offended by these people, but I do wonder when the day will come that "...for a black girl." doesn't exist anymore.