I have never really fit in to a clique. I’ve always liked trivial ‘white people things’ and have not until recently resonated with typical black tropes. (The rap, grime and afro beats. The lingo and the dance moves). I’ve preferred my Taylor swift over Beyonce and would easily pick Sunday roast over jerk chicken. Life served me well living like this, with a majority white friendship group, singing to ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘eye of the Tiger’; until I came to an age in which I developed romantic connections. It was then, alongside my realisation of the police brutality and racism in America, that I realised. I’ve never liked a boy of my own race or been friends with a ‘true black girl’ (course Living in the heart of south east London I was friends with many black girls but the ones that became close I realised were the ones that acted like me. I was an Oreo (black on the outside, white on the inside) and so were my black friends. It was around this time in that I started to feel guilty and ashamed. Why can’t I get along with black people, especially the boys? Why don’t black girls want to talk to me? Why have I never liked a boy that isn’t white?
I tried to find a reason. Maybe it was because of the complicated relationship with my father, the absence of a black father figure making me subconsciously bitter towards an entire group of people. Or perhaps to was their fault. I was always one of the tallest in my class when I was young, developed more quickly than most other girls and have looked 16 years old since I was 10. I remember the first day a man wanted my affections; I was about 12 or 13. I was in my town centre waiting to go shopping with my mother’s best friend. I had new jeans and I felt good in them, this was the first day I noticed that men stare. I was standing by a Claire’s waiting for her to arrive when a man approached me. He was a black man, in my memory he had a bald head and he was older than me. He seemed older than my father (my dad being 24 years older than me). He asked for my name and I being so quick witted blurted ‘Claire’ with a polite and awkward nod, he chuckled and pointed to the shop behind me. I pursed my lips to imitate a smile. He offered to buy me food which I quickly declined; I mumbled an excuse to leave and quickly scurried away. I took a breather to recover from my traumatic experience and turned around to see him standing behind me. I jumped as a cold shudder ran through my body. Now it must be noted I was painfully shy from the age of about 5 to 13, talking to extended family members was a feat and I was never one to be loud in public. In this moment all feelings of shyness left me and with a powerful roar I screamed ‘LEAVE ME ALONE’. The man’s face, if he were not black, would have been blood red as he weakly scampered away with his tail between his legs.
While I realised my internalised racism I haven’t fully left it in the past. I still find myself pinning after white guys over black guys with no good reason.
Possibly it was that experience that forever scared my view of black men. But then I think to my mother telling me of her finding a notebook of mine from when I was a child. It was a list of aspirations and it went something like this: 1. Be rich 2. Be famous 3. Marry a white man. While being a hilarious story I could help but feel sad that a younger version of myself had, had this idealised vision of white men and would continue to feel that way when she started dating. Before recently I didn’t even realise my children wouldn’t be white, silly I know. When I was younger when i envisioned children I’d always seen myself carrying around rosy cheeked babies with gold whips of hair adorning their head as their blue eyes twinkled. It didn’t occur to me that even if they were half white their eyes would most probably be brown like mine. It didn’t occur to me that I would have to learn how to manage black hair and maintain it. It didn’t occur to me that my children would be more likely to be unemployed, less likely to go to university and more likely to live in poverty. It didn’t occur to me that I was black. I’d been living in a world where I ignored my colour but I now realise to truly love someone, white or black, I have to love the skin I’m in first.