I have been called many things growing up. It was often due to the fact that I never quite fit in. I always knew people in the “in-crowds”, but I was never fully, completely a part of said “in-crowd”. After a while I realized it was because I was a type of different. I was first informed of this in elementary school.
Being an Army Brat, an Only Child, and living in a home with parents that were serious about including God in our home and individual lives, I didn’t always experience the same things that many people I knew seemed to have had. Unfortunately, I didn’t live around cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I wasn’t blessed with a sibling that continuously got on my nerves. My parents didn’t allow me to listen to certain types of music, wear whatever I wanted, or go everywhere my friends may have been allowed to go. As I mentioned before, my parents were serious about living a Christ-like life. They didn’t drink, gossip, or cuss. BET was only on, on Sunday mornings while getting ready for church because The Bobby Jones show would be on. The Bobby Jones show featured many well known gospel acts, African American Christian Music artist, that appeared on the show to sing and minister. If that wasn’t on, we’d be listening to the great Walter Hawkins or Commissioned or the Mississippi Mass Choir while getting ready for some good ole chuch (with the letter r purposely left out). The only non-gospel songs I knew were the ones I heard classmates sing “at the playground, ya know”….
By now, my family and I were living in the state of Oklahoma. Having lived around so many different types of accents at a young age, I did notice that these Oklahomans had that Sooner/Cowboy sounding twang in the way they spoke. I, on the other hand, didn’t have that twang. I didn’t speak with any particular accent where one could locate the region of the U.S. I was from. I just spoke the way that I did, which was often times called “proper”. At this time in my life, I knew more French than Spanish, and was still awaiting the day that I could return to my home in Belgium.
It was in the 6thgrade where I learned this way of speaking wasn’t always acceptable. At least not for someone that looked like me. “Valeria” felt the need to let me know that I didn’t sound like her or her friends. “Girl, you talk like a white girl”. This must have been extremely important to her, since she shared this information with me on three different occasions. I responded by laughing it off because I didn’t know what she meant. She was laughing while she told me, so ha ha right? One particular day, she added more by saying, “Girl, you talk and act like a white girl”.
How was I supposed to respond now?
I was confused. How could I act like a race that I wasn’t? We had white students in our class and we were all the same age. Wouldn’t this mean that we all acted alike? After some time of thinking this statement over, I soon began to realize that “Valeria” meant this to be an insult. Being only 12, it took me awhile to realize this. I was however, caught off guard. I was obviously a little black girl, but now there was something else that made me different besides not being able to sing the radio songs at recess. There was something else that hindered me from fitting all the way in. People were noticing it and it had nothing to do with me being an only child.
The skin I was in wasn’t even enough for me to be me.
Unlike my classmates, I had already lived in Europe and had walked Parisian streets that many of their parents had only read about or saw in movies. I already knew what it was like to see the Windmills of The Netherlands and to say a prayer and light a candle in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I knew what it was to play in the heavy snowfall of Germany’s winters, while awaiting St. Nicholas. Because of these differences, I tried to blend in. I never asked a question about something I thought Americans were supposed to already know about; like hair weave, certain television shows, or anything that made me look stupid. I knew that there were some things I was just supposed to know.
So yeah, I was different because of what I had been exposed to. The lives of my classmates were different from mine as well, so we were all different from each other. But why was my type of different being called out?
Thank you for reading. Part II will be coming soon.
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