Color does not determine who we are

On a given day I will be wearing baggy black JNCO jeans and a black tour t-shirt from one of my favorite bands. I have been sporting Converse All-Stars before every little 14 year old thought it was cool. I have eight piercings and my hair has been going between black and blue for the past four years. My iPod is always blasting anything from punk to hardcore to straight up metal. I skateboard, mosh and play the bass guitar. Doesn’t sound like a big deal right? Yet I have experienced otherwise since junior high because of one simple fact: I am African-American.

A stereotype is defined as a fixed, exaggerated or preconceived idea about a particular social group. It is generally based exclusively on physical appearance. Every race has its stereotypes, but it is when we are blinded by these stereotypes that a problem arises.

Non-black people label people like me an “Oreo”-black on the outside but white in the middle. I have even heard my white friends who like rap music called an “Uh-oh Oreo.” I do not dress in what is considered the black style, but that does not mean I am “white washed”. When someone calls me “white girl” or “Oreo”, I always reply with “How do you act a color?” What does race have to do with my interest? Why do they even have to pass this judgment?

Think about it. White people do not own proper speech, while rap music is not only enjoyed by blacks. Latinos, Asians and other ethnicities dabble in the hip hop world also. I understand that rap and hip hop is part of the black culture while country is part of the white community, but to say that one must only listen to the music of their culture is absurd. It sad that I am usually one of two blacks at the rock concerts I attend. It’s even worse that they stare at me like I am out of my environment.

Some people say that I talk “white” because I have proper vernacular. This is what annoys me the most. Last time I checked, speaking in ebonics is a trend that transcends races. It is something popular in our generation. If one chooses to speak in slang, that is their choice, but I find it easier for my speech to be as a light switch.

It is true that your surroundings effect and shape your identity. Growing up I had friends of all races. Our lunch table was basically the only “mixed” table. We just did not see color. It was a simple as that. But it should not be a black-white thing. Race should not be involved period.

The problem lies not only with people who have problems with others crossing into their style, but when people believe that the tone of their skin denotes the way they should act, talk and dress. That is sticking to your roots but plain ignorance.

Stereotypes keep people down and do not allow for diversity. People should be free to be how they want to be. Denying who you are only leads to unhappiness. Dressing the way I do or listening to what I truly like to listen to does not make me a poser, hypocrite or a sell-out. It only makes me, me.

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