Black Girl, Interrupted

This blog was supposed to be about mental health and humor but this entry is mostly about race. Specifically, it is about me being black.

Did you know I was black?

I’m black. My parents are both from Jamaica and so I have Chinese-Jamaican mixed heritage. It’s something Americans tend to find fascinating but is pretty common in Jamaica. It’s not something that I thought a ton about until I went away to college, a lot of Caribbean people in South Florida have mixed heritage. My best friend from middle school (hi Annique!) was also Chinese-Jamaican and we just happened to live in the same neighborhood. While I am proud to be Chinese I have always felt more black. So much of Jamaican culture was built by black people. Plus, in the United States if you look even a little black you are considered it. My parents have instilled a lot of pride in me and I love talking about our family and cultural identity.

Last night I was at a very nice dinner party and a guy started trying to justify blackface to me. I was the only black person there and he was trying to play devil’s advocate due to some local recent events. For some context, a lot of my friends in Richmond are posting about something that happened at a restaurant and bar called Balliceaux. A man who worked there wore blackface during his shift. This man also posted pictures of himself on social media. He claims it was deliberately provocative and supposed to be shocking.

For those that don’t live in Richmond, Balliceaux is a hipstery bar known for their cocktails. I have spent many evening there dancing or going to events.  It is slightly fancier than other bars in the vicinity but definitely has a younger crowd.

Balliceaux later posted an apology that has now been deleted. Honestly, I found the apology incredibly insulting.  While they did say sorry they also made sure to mention that the man who did this was a nice guy and not a racist. It seemed like they were more interested in protecting that guy’s reputation than reaching out to anyone they may have hurt.

If you are sorry and condemn something just say that you regret it. That’s it. Maybe reach out to the community you have offended and see if you can do something to repair this if they are open to it. Anything else feels like you are justifying your actions. Don’t add in that someone is a nice guy and not a racist. That is not the point. Racism is more complicated than that. Plenty of people who are deeply racist would be perfectly nice to me in public. I probably know someone who has racist beliefs that I think of as a nice guy. You probably do too. These things can exist together.

The thing is, I like talking about race and racism. It is embedded in our culture and history. But it is still a weird feeling to be the only black person in the room and have to explain why blackface is wrong, always wrong. Somehow, you become the representative of all black people. I am not in pain over this or someone’s decision to wear blackface. I am tired. I am tired of people not understanding that when racist stuff like this happens other people do not realize that it is attacking my humanity. I am tired of people thinking that I am the “right kind” of black person because I am an otherwise nonthreatening nerd and listen to Fleetwood Mac.

I am so incredibly proud that I have seen so many friends condemn this. I have been the only black girl in the room so many times. So many times I have been the only person of color in the room and have felt scared to speak up.  


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