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“Again I say this, I found out I was black at the tender age of 10.
I rejected the label at first
Not because I didn’t like or want to feel one with the “black or African Americans”,
but because I was never taught to identify myself with a color.
At that age, I was aware that white symbolizes light while black symbolizes evil.
I refused to see whites as the good people
while degrading myself to such low standards
just because of my “melanin situation”
What does that even mean?
“Black or African American”
Does that mean I can be African American without being black?
Someone please explain to me because I am dying to know
At the age of 10, I was forced to choose between being black
and being just a young child who just wanted to go to school
and not have to repeat myself every time I opened my mouth
because my accent was different.
So I gave up my accent by the time I was 12.
I stopped claiming Africa as well.
I stopped accepting my heritage and started embracing what I thought was my reality
I was tired of explaining myself.
I was tired of having to fight for a place that was just an ocean away.
Although, It didn’t feel like an ocean away.
It felt like a galaxy away.
I felt like I was in another world.
One of the only reminders of who I really was was my family.
They’re Africans
I mean
How could they not?
They couldn’t give up who they were because it was all they knew.
They couldn’t even give up the accent even if they really wanted to.
The only other time I would have to claim my heritage
was when the teacher would make an attempt to pronounce my last name.
Memories..
Boy was that always tragic.
At a certain age in high school,
I stopped caring.
I stopped claiming what I thought was my reality and
Started looking back at who I was as a young African girl
I missed her
I missed the girl
who fought anyone who made her feel less than herself.
Except this time, I didn’t fight
I had already learned that the best reaction I could give was to sit back, relax and watch the antagonist beat his or herself up waiting for me to act on silly little teenage rage.
Yeah, that’s what I call it.
Sitting back and relaxing was not the best idea to have when you are supposed to flip off
Holding in rage was not a great idea either because little by little it broke me.
I was all smiles on the outside but on the inside, there was fire.
I placed this fire in my backpack
But when I got home I did not do a thing with it
Lemme tell you that repressing anger is not that effective because it damages your mind.
I mean
By the time I let high school, I was broken
Not because I felt like my culture was not perceived as the “ish”
But because of what I did with those feelings.
I guess what I am trying to say is that
I check “other” not because I believe I am better than the “black/African American”s,
but because I feel the pressure to deny who I am every time I check that box “black/African American”
I check “other” because I just want to be seen for who I really am
Not an African American, not a black woman, not even an African woman, just someone, who is still trying to figure out who God needs her to be,
rather than who everyone else says she should be.
I check “other” because I refuse to label myself as a color.
As if I am nobody without it.”

 

*********

Image by Les Haines via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - SongonugaVictoria Songonuga is a undergraduate student at the University of Baltimore. She was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and she moved to the United States at the age of 10. At the moment, Victoria is pursuing a Bachelors degree in Human Services Administration and hopefully will be pursuing her masters in Psychology in a couple of years. In the meantime, she modelsblogs, and writes poetry during her spare time.

 

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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