The minute I begin to define myself purely based on someone else’s expectations, I no longer exist.
I no longer exist.
Toni was the first one to show me- don’t call her Toni like you know her, respect your elders- it was Toni that showed me that people could look at my skin and see breakfast tables and candy counters. Caramel with nougat swirl. The richest unprocessed cocoa, 0% fat. Cocoa cream puffs drenched in chocolate sauce. Flan. Flan? But that’s not bl− You should be careful. This coating of nerves and cells is actually artery-clogging sweetness, it is cloying sugar water coating your intestines. You have been warned.
“Girl! Haven’t you heard that black people don’t swim?!”
“What do you mean? I’ve been swimming since I was 6!”
“But, you’re not really black!”
I’m sorry? I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that somewhere on that cross-continental journey my skin transformed from one color to another. Purple? Yellow with green polka dots? Red, yellow and green with a giant black star right where my nose should be. Ghanaian and proud. Tell me again how I will never know what it’s like to really be black in America. Black is a cultural experience you said. Black, you said, is cornbread and collard greens and grits, not banku and viscous okro soup or oxtail and rice. Oh, you mean your grandma doesn’t wear hats adorned with plastic baby’s breath and carnations to church every Sunday? That’s weird, it’s such a black thing. More than a thing. These are profound markers of the black cultural experience in America. You definitely don’t belong.
“Girl! I love how black skin looks in that fabric! I could never pull it off. So…ethnic!”
“What do you mean? I bought this at Zara.”
“Oh, I’m sorry I thought it was a bl− I mean, African thing…”