The following is an email by Michael, a twenty-four-year-old man who said it's okay for me to post it here.
I want you to know that I really enjoy your blog. . . . I wanted to share with you something that I've had white people, usually my friends, do to me all my life. They tell me that I'm "not really black."
A little background on me: My dad is a transplanted New York white man who lives in California with my mom, a transplanted South Carolina black woman. I came out an in-between shade (think Barrak Obama, Tiger woods, etc). We were poor for a long time until my parents got their small business off the ground, so you could say that I've gone through a transition from lower to middle class in my mid teens. Needless to say, I had trouble fitting in, a speck of brown in a sea of white. I was targeted, razzed, discriminated against, and called racial slurs. "Sticks and stones," my parents would say, and so I just soldiered through it.
I was fortunate enough to live in a county with good schools, so my speech and writing was about par for college folks when I got out of high school. I went to UCLA, and always worked hard to achieve academic success. Mostly because of the horrible representation of blacks in the University of California system, the vast majority of the people I interacted with were white (with asians coming in second). Whenever the issue of race came up, they told me that they just didn't see me as black. One white person even had the gall to claim that he was blacker than me.
What is it that makes me unblack? Is it my successes? That I can write and talk like a college grad? I've never seen someone's "whiteness" challenged before. Are people less white if they are unsuccessful and less articulate?
I even know more than a few white people in the media who say that Obama himself isn't really black. It's almost as if they're trying to play down his "blackness" to minimize the pride felt by blacks in America.
No amount of success or education is ever going to erase all of the experiences that I've had that have come from being black. I sometimes tell my white friends about how I was called racial slurs in class, had my belongings vandalized, and even had my house egged because of my race. Their reaction is shocked disbelief every time. "I never knew!" or "no way!" are the most common responses to the revelation that yes, I am a black person, and I have the scars to prove it.
Now I'm in law school and it's happening all over again with my new white friends (because law school isn't terribly diverse these days either). All I can do is take a deep breath and push my palm up to my forehead.