Constrained Blackness

I think I have figured out at least one reason why graduate school has been difficult. I am rarely around more than one or two Black people at a time. Many times I am the only Black person at social gatherings. Most other times there are only one or two more. I’ve talked about this before, but not so much regarding the cultural mismatch. This is something that really hit me yesterday. It is challenging to go through this period when you are around many people who do not share the same cultural background as you. It is valuable to be around people from different backgrounds certainly, but something can definitely be said about having those shared experiences. I want to be able to talk more about the music I like to listen to without getting a blank stare or some kind of dismissive comment. I want to play my music at my desk without worrying about getting weird looks. I want to freely suggest movies to watch without wondering if people will assume some kind of negative stereotype about me or use the movie to stereotype Black people. And then the food. That has been really rough for me too. Particularly when there is a potluck event and hardly anyone eats the food you bring. The food you spent four hours making. And goddamn I want to have someone to talk basketball with. Basketball is my favorite sport, but I guess it is too lowly of an activity for some people to engage in. I wonder why (this is sarcasm, I know why). I just want to freely express my cultural background without fear of being stereotyped or insulted. I do not like to feel that I have to constrain my Blackness for the comfort of others. Sometimes I wonder if that is why some people are okay with me. Black enough to say you have “diverse” friends, but not too Black to make you uncomfortable. I think this is always something I am going to struggle with: being a Black face in a mostly White space.

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