So let me summarise my world, well our world. A world where girls (and men I should point out) endeavour to be what they are not. Dark skinned girls take photo’s next to ‘good lighting’ while straightening their hair, and caucasian girls tan their skins and braid their hair. To make this point even more valid, I straightened my hair to look “neat” for a presentation today, so really I guess I’m kind of an expert with trying to be accepted to the norm.
What should it really feel like to be black? or white? Nothing, it shouldn’t feel like anything. Anything different at least. But I can tell you what I endeavour being a black girl in Australia. Give in mind, I went to an all-white school but grew up with a strong cultural community (Ethiopian).
1.Fights in high school
People avoiding fights with you because they fear you can “fight” or that you were physically stronger because you were darker skinned. No Lisa, I’ve never been in a physical fight, I’m just as scared as you are.
Bringing an example to the table, I had a fight with a close friend in high school which led to teachers being involved. This fight was a wake-up call to what my teachers had thought of me and I guess it was the first time really feeling “black”. Anyhow, the teacher stated if I continued to include my out-of-school friends in this dilemma, which he classified as “gang-like members” I should point out, the school would call the cops. You can imagine my shock. I mean we were just a bunch of immature kids talking about a fight on facebook who happened to be black.
2. Greeting people
Mmmm I can give you a handshake but if you want ‘knuckles’, I’m sure I can manage the hit.
3. “You’re not really black, though”
I guess knowing radio music and talking proper doesn’t really make me black, does it?
Even worse, you would honestly think this was only said by caucasian people, but ironically it’s said by my African sisters too. Being light-skinned meant I was often referred to as the “half-caste” or the girl who apparently had a half Italian grandad I never meant.
4. Nope, I don’t rap, nor can I sing like Beyonce, but thank you for the comparison. Or worse, when you actually know the lyrics and your family friends look at you like the prime minister just dropped a mixtape.
5. Going out with my school friends was a constant reminder that I couldn’t actually dance. So no, I don’t know how to twerk, so looking over at me when a twerk song comes on will NOT make me attempt too.
6. Classic: You’re pretty for a black girl? You couldn’t just leave it as you’re pretty, could you?
7.Speaking to clients on the phone and seeing them in person. Yes, Barbara, I am the beth you were talking too, it’s me ME!
8. Having to explain you’re Australian often went like this:
“Where are you from?”
“But where are you really from? like your background”
“Well, my parents are Ethiopian but I was born in Australia”…. so yes that freakin makes me Australian!
9. Notice how you would never call a french person, or English person European? Well, there are over 50 countries in Africa and we are still deemed to be grouped as one. Over 50 different cultures, 50 different lifestyles, thousands of different languages and more, but somehow I’m still referred to as the “African” girl.
10. Having to accept people thinking ‘Bethlehem’ is an interesting name when somehow Paris was never questioned.
11. Can I touch your hair? No please don’t, go pat your dog or something.
(Even worse, if you were to google “professional hair” and “unprofessional hair”, you would be shocked to see what came up.)
Don’t get me wrong, some people love being categorised as the stereotypical black girl and sometimes I love the occasional, ‘don’t mess with me’ alter ego. But think about it like this, sometimes people have no choice but to embrace it because people don’t see otherwise.