Polish No One Can Tarnish

Portia - Johnston, Iowa
Entered on January 22, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I have fallen asleep many nights with tear-streaked cheeks asking God, “Why can’t I fit in? No one understands what I’m going through.” Myself, being an African-American who grew up in predominately ‘white schools’, listened to rock music, didn’t speak Ebonics, or wear traditional brand name clothing, made it difficult to fit in anywhere.

I tried to associate with different cliques, praying I had finally found friends for life. Nope, not this time, nor the next, or the time after that. The black kids thought I acted too ‘white’ to hang with them. Several classmates in middle school told me they didn’t like me because they thought I was an ‘Uncle Tom,’ and that I should stop pretending to be something I’m not. In high school, I was always the ‘token black kid’ with my white friends, and always stood out for the wrong reasons in group photos. Even one of my ex-boyfriend’s mother told me she liked me because I didn’t act ‘black,’ but the truth is, I didn’t act like anything at all – I just wasn’t a stereotype.

Who said I had to listen to certain music or speak a colloquial speech to be my race? Does the sway of my hips not have enough rhythm on the dance floor or do I not run fast enough? Can my ignorance of African-American history not make me an African-American? I thought an ethnic group was your heritage, not your personal lifestyle. I always took great pride in the way I dressed, spoke, my swagger, and my heritage, but hearing people tell me ‘being black’ meant wearing my pants far below my beltline, listening to music that promoted violence against women, and being uneducated, disgusted me. I was none of the things that has defined the black society in such a negative light, and never wanted to be either. If being below excellence is what ‘black’ is, then I guess all my childhood peers were right -I’m not black- but I’m not white either.

I believe in defining myself beyond what society has set for me. My character is much more complex than the pigment of my skin, and my value is beyond any inanimate object this world has to offer. My beauty glistens inside and out with a polish no one can tarnish. No longer do I cry myself asleep longing for acceptance, but rejoice, rejoice, rejoice each day knowing, after all of this time, I stayed true to me.