I have such a unique experience and sometimes I’m scared to express it.
Is my black experience in America valid?
Or did I live the wrong life and now I can’t share it?
Did I live in the right neighborhood?
Did I strut the right style?
Did I like the right foods?
Did I watch the right movies?
If I was completely transparent, I would tell you I grew up on the other side of the bridge in Austin. I lived on the west side, not the east side. I strutted “preppy” attire not “hip” attire. My family stayed clear of Kool-Aid. I’ve never seen Friday, but I can recite The Parent Trap.
I’m not saying either one of these is more of a true or authentic black experience, but I have battled with these thoughts. And therefore I’m scared that maybe I’m not black enough to join in the discussion of Black Lives Matter, of the health disparities in low income areas, of any issue for the Black community in my city.
I turn quiet when the discussion arises at the lunch table, I shy away from the Facebook comment feed.
Like many Black kids raise in a predominately Caucasian atmosphere, I grew up with the traditional Oreo complex. My outer shell was black, but the inner was white. It was hard to hear my Caucasian classmates recite over and over “You don’t act Black”, but it was even tougher when my school experience finally included other Black students and they too explained “You don’t act Black”.
Sure this meant I was scared to chime in about the proper sugar to water ration in Kool-Aid or even which season of a Different World was the best. But even more it meant I was scared to chime into conversations that really matter.
When the news headlines flash another innocent Black man shot by the police, I felt tongue tied. When the Facebook timeline read gentrification in East Austin, my fingers fell stiff.
I was too scared to have an opinion about the issues plaguing our city and country because I didn’t think my experience as an African American woman warranted a mic.
“But my experience doesn’t look like theirs”. This was the thought that did circles in my head.
A little discussion with my best friend and a long moment with God however revealed to me that all that fear and all those voices were simply a lie.
My experience is valid.
Not just in friendly conversations about dietary choices, but in the tougher conversations about the chaos in our country.
My life didn’t look like everyone’s around the table for a reason. My story, my perspective, my experience brings something different to the table.
Maybe my attendance to predominately white private schools will allow me to bridge the gap between races. Maybe my different food choices will provide me the opportunity to share healthier recipes with friends who didn’t have that exposure. Maybe my story will open doors for the other young Black girls who struggled with their identity, who struggled to feel loved and valid.
As we move past the week anniversary of the chaos in Charlottesville, we must remember that all our voices are needed at the table. There’s not one single Black experience that makes us more right for the discussion or more fitted to help change this country.
Black in America.