…own skin. Perhaps he meant to say that I should be proud of my heritage and all that comes with it. Maybe he wanted to stop me from going down a path of self-hatred and cultural denial. But like many conversations between a teen and an adult, there was much left unexplained, open to mi…
I am going to read the rest of this post, but I need to stop you here. The self-hatred is on his end, not yours. By telling you that you talk white, what he’s really implying is that you probably have an extended vocabulary and enunciate your words. And it ain’t a motherfugging thing wrong with doing so. Been there, heard it. I distinctly recall a friend of mine who had a neighbor that told me that. She’d followed my friend a block away to my porch and sprang that on me. I took a beat, thought about it, pondered on all the mature responses I could give at the age of 16 and then went off on the most vulgar, slang-driven, broken English tangent I could go on.
And after I finished, I responded with, “Does that sound black enough for your taste?” She was so shocked by the way I responded that she grew very quiet, and I told her, “You can go home now.” We never spoke again, but I saw her often. Should I have approached it differently? At 38, I still don’t regret it. I hope it taught her to never talk down to any black person and shame them for actually paying attention in writing and reading classes. That’s the whole point of going to school — to actually listen and learn. I can code-switch in milliseconds. But what annoys me more than anything is to code-switch in “mixed company” and that non-POC person then mimics what I said because it’s now a “cool” thing to say. My last boss (white woman) used to do it all the time. It annoyed the hell out of me to be shamed by a handful of my own skinfolk for being able to speak fluent and proper English while non-black folks were somehow cooler for doing the exact opposite.
At 38 though, and if I were in your shoes at Blockbuster/Hollywood video or whatever the equivalent of it is in your neck of the woods, I probably would respond now with, “So you mean I speak like a black woman who understands grammar, pronunciation and subject-verb agreement? Thank you for pointing out the obvious. I’m not paying back student loans for nothing. Now what else do you want?”