She Talk Like a White Girl...by Paula Neal Mooney
White girl, he called me. That's Isaac, standing like a Conquistador on the banks of some lake. He's a guy who interned at my job a few years back. White girl, he would tease, mimicking the way I spoke, threatening to revoke my "ghetto pass" when he found out I voted for George W. Bush.
It wasn't the first time the supposed "white girl" insult had been hurled my direction. When I traveled down to Tallahassee, Florida, to attend Florida A & M University, roommates who considered me light-skinned would sometimes call me white girl, too. Read the excellent work titled The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans for all the issues us blacks can harbor over skin color.
They reminded me of myself as a 9-year-old, when I read in RightOn! magazine that Todd Bridges' favorite band was Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac! I thought. How can their songs compare to "Lady" by The Whispers?
Thankfully, three years later, I joined the freshman class as a 12-year-old at Kenwood Academy, a high school in the then racially-diverse and eclectic Hyde Park section of Chicago. From this photo of my sis outside with her advanced placement chemistry class, you can get an idea of the race make-up back then -- though in actuality it was around 20% white. (The sweet guy with the bow-tie ended up being her prom date -- a fact my grandfather was none too happy about.)
A black woman being flanked by white folks reminds me of this shot of my mother circa 1966. Mommy was the first black secretary hired at some of the "lily white" law firms in downtown Chicago. Boy, the stories she told me before she died...
Anyway, after graduating from the "too black, too strong" HBCU that was FAMU, I too learned to dance the dance and play the game of excelling as one of the "lonely onlys" talked about in the book Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America.
I remember going to one Anheuser-Busch function and being the only black in a room full of hundreds of other races. I learned to get used to it, and help blacks coming up in any arena learn that speaking well isn't a "white thing," but necessary for any facet of life. I've heard firsthand of black candidates who interview for corporate positions yet come in saying "was" where there should be a "were" then find themselves dismissed for not being "polished" enough. Not all whites speak "the King's English," it's true, but any lack of intelligence is rarely pegged to their race.
But I digress. My real point is the laughable way us blacks can be racist against one another. This came up in my Spirit because of the hidden or outright cries of "sell-out" felt by some blacks who took issue with me defending Ann Coulter's stance on Kwanzaa.
It's the stuff covered in the book that I'm page 62 deep into the 232 pages of called He Talk Like a White Boy, written by Joseph C. Phillips, the guy who played Denise Huxtable's hubby on The Cosby Show. Though Phillips was raised primarily around whites and I was raised with blacks, I already can relate to plenty of his points described therein.
It's the kind of angst that drove Leanita McClain, 32, whom Time magazine called a "sensitive, idealistic columnist for the Chicago Tribune and the first black member of the paper's editorial board," to swallow a handful of pills and kill herself. McClain's "How Chicago Taught Me to Hate Whites," opinion piece caused an uproar when it was published. I remember holding the piece in my hand that began the whole melee -- reading what should've been the tongue-in-cheek piece with quips about blacks and the Water Tower being renamed the "Watermelon" Tower in the Trib -- which folks took as the Gospel truth instead of a parody.
But while the "where do I fit in?" angst drove McClain to her death, I won't let it bring me down. The Lord has told me to go boldly in the direction of truth where I'm headed. And whether that means "poppin' my colla" to L.G. Wise or "rocking out" to The Fray, so be it.
Or, the Fleetwood Mac tunes that I now love. Because I've grown up and let Jesus expand my mind beyond the color of flesh...
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