The Skin I’m In

I was called an oreo when I was growing up. In the African American community this was not a term of endearment. It didn’t refer to how sweet I was. Rather it was social nomenclature that described my perceived character. In layman’s terms this word described me as one who, though I was black on the outside, was really white on the inside. As you might imagine this was not just about color. This term and those who used it were referring to my physical appearance and my norms, behaviors and mannerisms. For some reason I was viewed as an outsider within my own community and to this day, I am teased by family and friends alike in regards to my seemingly “non-black” behavior. Truth be told, this had a devastating effect on my identity…

This way of thinking brought so many other things to mind. For one, I wondered what it meant to be black and how someone like me who comes from a black family and was raised in black neighborhoods and went to predominately black schools (even graduating from a Historically Black College & University) was seen as not “black enough”. Black history and knowing my roots was very important in my home. My mother was an educator who took seriously her role in passing down traditions, knowledge, and untold stories of our culture.

I often thought that maybe peoples’ interpretations of me were connected to my faith tradition. I was raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is a predominately white denomination; however the churches of my childhood were black Lutheran churches. Many friends in Texas asked if Lutherans were Christians (to this day the irony of this question makes me chuckle) and when I invited them to church they were taken aback by our worship style when compared to their Baptist/Nondenominational/traditional black denominational way of worship. But once again, even in my church community, black traditions and culture were important and uplifted.

Education was very important to my parents and I was a voracious reader. We traveled extensively during my childhood, taking a family trip every year. My parents made a point to include historic sites and cultural information on every trip. I was well spoken and well rounded, being involved in everything from academic enrichment opportunities in the summer to the requisite tap/ballet/dance trifecta. I finished high school with honors, graduating number eleven in my class of 454, was a Varsity Cheerleader, National Honor Society member, and belonged to host of other clubs and organizations.

Going to an HBCU was important to me. I wanted to be a part of an institution of higher learning that infused African American history, culture and traditions into the DNA of their curriculum. When I arrived at Spelman College in the fall of 1999, I finally felt like I found a place where I belonged. I was surrounded by intelligent, articulate, and vivacious BLACK women. But I soon realized that the world outside of our gates still viewed us as the other.

This “otherness” has been with me as long as I can remember. In my darkest hours, I’ve begun to realize the damage that was caused by those who ridiculed me for who I was, making me question my identity, my worth and my purpose. I’m now at a point in life where I fully embrace the skin I’m in. I fully embrace who I am as one who has been crafted in God’s very own image, gifted for a purpose.

My hope is people judge less and love more.

My hope is that we can broaden our perspectives on what a particular race/ethnicity/culture is like.

My hope is that we realize how damaging it is to ostracize and criticize anyone because of their individuality.

My hope is that we all can grow in love, grace and acceptance of our selves in order to fully love and accept each other.

Love,

Me

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22 thoughts on “The Skin I’m In

  1. joyce says:

    Very well written, and I totally agree that instead of putting a label on someone, we really have to Love more and accept someone for they are.

  2. Andrea says:

    Your courage and truth telling is an inspiration. If only we could just see the image of God in each other. Thanks for your words and refreshing honesty.

  3. Don’t worry my young sister, as time goes on the judgements of others mean less and less. You’re on that positive path of “love, grace and acceptance” now so you’re good. Wonderful post.

  4. I hope too that people grow up,accept and love more. Loved the post:) cheers…

  5. bethpow06 says:

    Please continue to be yourself – only in that way will you be true to your identity – and not worry about how others define you.

  6. What a wonderful post. I totally relate to your experience. I am Native American and I have been called an apple (red on the outside, white on the inside) by my own community. It’s very hurtful. Thanks for sharing.

    • HolyRoze says:

      It’s amazing how hurtful we can be towards each other. I wonder if every ethnic/racial group has an internal slur used to describe this phenomenon? I’d rather food be food and people be people. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  7. mikedkay says:

    I’ve wondered about this phenomenon often, particularly during the debate over Obama’s blackness. Stumbling across your account was a stroke of good fortune. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beautiful – what would the world be like if judgement was striken from the lingua Franca? You are an amazing woman – thank you for sharing You!

  9. Abrielle Valencia says:

    Wow! Very well said! Love this! Thank you for sharing this.

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