My coffee skin had too much cream to be considered to be black enough by some black people but not light enough to pass for white. The tight curl pattern of my hair did not pass the white test. Children of interracial relationships were frowned upon and treated worse in the 70’s. Though my parents are black, uneducated people did not fathom the genetic possibilities that I was and will always be black not mixed, biracial or albino just simply light-skinned.
One day, we were challenged to a double-dutch tournament to prove that we were the best. Maria had been absent from school all week but returned on the day of the challenge. I told her that I could not play with her. She ran away crying and told her older sister. Her tall lanky sister from the sixth grade came and grabbed my arm while I was waiting for my turn to jump in the ropes. She spat words in my face but “nigger” was the word that turned my face red and stopped the ropes from turning. Angela’s sister was there in a flash and pushed the other older girl. I watched as the pushing escalated until Maria was accidentally knocked to the ground and screamed. I ran to her as blood dripped from her elbow.
I looked up and both older girls stared down at me like I was a common enemy. “It’s time for you to decide if you want to be black or white,” Angela’s sister said. I stared up at the crowd before standing slowly and backing away from Maria. I lost both friends that day as I walked to the swings and sat alone.
Every day, for weeks I sat alone on the swing until some boys came over and ask if I knew how to play basketball. They needed another player and they didn’t care about my skin. It didn’t matter that I was a girl as long as I could play ball. For four years, boys were my only friends. My brother and his friends became my friends. My family thought I couldn’t make friends. I never told them what happened with my friends at school and no one asked. For years into my adulthood, I avoided race-relations and tensions. I could feel it coming. I could see a potential race issue before it surfaced and if possible, left the situation or braced for the fallout.
Back in the 80’s people cared very little about women getting raped, even less if you were a black woman. When the car stopped and the three men jumped out of the car, there was not a second to wait. I ran through the forbidden lawns. I cut through yards that could have gotten me shot for trespassing. Just when I thought they were going to catch me at the fence I knew I couldn’t climb fast enough, an older white man yelled at them, “Leave that nigger girl alone.” The men spat tobacco before returning to their car. I was grateful to the old man and told him thank you. He responded by telling me to get off his lawn and go back to where I came from. My teeth chattered as I walked back to the street and thankfully, the men were gone. I went to work and told no one what happened.
Black, brown and white people didn’t care what happened to black people who were not black enough. I learned that at age seven and I experienced it throughout my young life. I had been called a half-breed by a white police officer at age twelve who asked me if my momma was a white nigger-lover while I waited at a bus stop with a young white man who thought I was worthy to have a conversation about weather and school. The young man’s face turned red. He avoided talking to me the following week as we waited for the same bus. I had not committed a crime.
I don’t identify myself as an African American. I identify as Black American. I am not denouncing my African heritage or the enslavement of my ancestors. I am simply acknowledging that I don’t have any other African connection other than my skin. According to my brother’s ancestry DNA results, I have other nationalities in my breeding as well but I don’t identify as being white, Irish or Scottish. I am black in skin, culturally black and born in America. I am a Black American girl who became a Black American woman.