From Twerking at the VMAs to Twerking With Words: My Take on Racism

Whether it is middle-aged mothers verbalizing their utter shock at Miley Cyrus’ coming-of-age transformation, or Black 20-somethings jotting down every emotion perfectly describing the disgust they feel about displays of racism during Cyrus’ performance, many journalists have been blogging about the 2013 VMAs. I think it is absurd that Miley Cyrus’ name was the top hit on Google News while Syria is undergoing societal chaos and our President has been struggling to make a sound decision regarding assisting their country to find safety. But as we all know, sex (and racism) sells and apparently Miley displayed a lot of both.

Though I do question whether the infamous displays of twerking and butt-grabbing would receive this much negative attention if Miley Cyrus were a black female (I strongly believe it would not), I am not here to dissect Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs, as there are numerous articles you can find regarding that topic. I have, however, been tirelessly battling with the concept of modern-day racism in the U.S.

I am a biracial female, so I typically feel some sort of a personal conflict whenever the topic of racism comes up. Do I believe racism across all ethnic groups still exists today? Yes. Is it clear that Blacks struggle with feeling equal to other races, particularly Whites? Of course. But while reading the many articles dissing Miley for being “racist” and how Blacks often feel various forms of negative attention from Whites, I cannot seem to find personal solace with the lack of attention given to black-on-black racism.

I say this because ever since I was a young elementary school kid, I have personally experienced racism from all races. I would say that is the strangest funniest part about being biracial: the wide range of racial comments you receive and how others feel it is their job to decide for you which of your two races dominates the other.

My mother is White and my father is only half Black, so that leaves me at a whopping 25% non-White. However, my skin is significantly darker than my siblings and dark enough that, to the naked eye, most tend to categorize me as either half or full-Black.

I have never let the negative comments get to me, but the various experiences I have had as a biracial female have been, well, pretty mixed up.

Whether it was fellow Black female students mocking the way I speak or calling me “White washed,” I have often felt the target of racism from other Blacks. I never understood why they didn’t accept my 25% as being equal to their 100%; the statistics are clearly unequal, but how do you equate Blackness? Additionally, if so many Blacks struggle for equality with their White counterparts, why would such a concept as equating Blackness even exist?

My father has experienced racism throughout his life as well, and I have experienced it with him at various times. The most notable situation occurred at a grocery store when my father went shopping to provide groceries for our family of five. I accompanied him, as was customary when I was younger, but this time he needed help because of the large amount of groceries we were buying. At the checkout, a younger employee (probably no older than 18) said, “It must be the first of the month,” insinuating that we had just received our food stamps and that was the only way we could afford the large amount of groceries we had. As a young girl this was confusing for two reasons: 1) I didn’t even fully understand the concept of food stamps as I had never been exposed to them before. 2) It was one of the first concrete examples of racism from a non-Black that I experienced and the employee’s ignorance and indignation for a complete stranger made zero sense to me.

Moving forward, acceptance among Blacks was not something I actively sought out, though I was fully aware that I wasn’t accepted by the many who bluntly expressed their negativity toward me. However, there was a significant time in middle school when a classmate, Joseph, told me (as what now seems like an extending of a sort of “Olive Branch for Blacks”) that I was “allowed to say Nigga ending with an -a, but not ending with an -er” because I am only a quarter Black. The saddest part is that although I immediately thought it was one of the more ridiculous comments I had heard regarding my biracialism, for one of the first times I felt somewhat accepted among the Black community…as represented by Joe that day in 7th grade History class.

Similarly, a friend recently stopped himself from correctly referencing the song Niggas In Paris by Kanye West and changed it to the extremely awkward (and incorrectly titled) non-existent song Ninjas In Paris. I still don’t really know what to think about that, but according to so many of my White friends growing up, I really can’t even be offended because I’m only 25% Black.

It is difficult to refrain from thinking about what racial category I would file myself under after only recently realizing how Black and White the world appears to many people. Luckily my parents never raised me to think in such binary terms, despite both experiencing racist parents, especially after choosing a spouse of opposite race.

I still can’t help but wonder if the girls from elementary school or my middle school History buddy know that almost every time a Black homeless person approaches me they call me their ‘sister’ before asking for money? I also wonder if said homeless persons use that as a tactic to increase their chances of getting money from me, or if, for whatever reason, the exact percentage of my Black racial composition doesn’t matter because, based on my darker complexion, we are a family of sorts?

It’s hard to imagine a world without racism when so many of our efforts toward equality seem counterintuitive. After reading Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and almost corporeally experiencing his feelings and personal conflicts through his honest diction, I am much more aware of the racial disparities that remain ubiquitous today, both across races and within a single racial group. My 25% doesn’t prevent me from letting Fanon’s thought-provoking syntax influence the way I revere his novel and I didn’t choose to read only 25% of it.

My 25% Blackness won’t define me just as my 75% Whiteness will not define me. I am neither Black nor White; I am much more complex than that and unfortunately for those who have ignorantly tried to categorize me, it is not up to anyone else to decide.

So here’s to Miley for twerking it like she’s in a strip club and my similar attempt at twerking (only with words in this extremely long post) by verbalizing my personal experiences and feelings on life as a partially Black female.

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