HOW DO YOU BLACK? - An Essay | Teen Ink


August 29, 2023
By thepoet_s BRONZE, Nashville, Tennessee
thepoet_s BRONZE, Nashville, Tennessee
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The second you break off, the other team takes off."

How do you Black? It's a complicated question. There isn’t a right way to be black, it's impossible to fit into a stereotype so much to the point where you are doing it 'correctly'. If I believe that to be true, then why have I felt like I’ve been doing it wrong?


Growing up Nigerian-American has been an experience if I could say so. My mother raised me to be as Nigerian as she could, but it still wasn’t the 100% Nigerian experience seeing as I was born in America. I was 50/50. 50% American, 50% Nigerian. And I held this near and dear to me. Whenever I was asked the question, “Where are you from?” I would always say Nigeria. I was beyond proud of my heritage because it was mine and no one could take it away from me.


But as I began to progress in my schooling I realized I was different compared to my peers. 

“Why do you talk White?” An insane question to hear as a 3rd grader I know. But hearing it so much I began to question myself as well. “Why do I talk white?” The copious amount of grammar books my mother bought me when I was younger meant nothing in these moments. I began to go through a process called “Cultural Assimilation” (Cultural assimilation is the process in which a minority group or culture comes to resemble a society's majority group). I began to act ‘Black’. Using mannerisms that were foreign to me, but seemed natural for my African-American peers. I used excessive amounts of AAVE almost every day. It was right for them, but why didn't it feel right for me? Why did I feel so out of place? Why did I talk 'Black' now? 


Once I hit the 5th grade things changed. Which is expected for middle school. I realized that I wanted to be different and have a fresh start. So I began to talk ‘White' again. But in reality, I was just being myself. Until it began to start again. “Sasha, Why do you talk white?” “Sasha, You aren't even black for real. It's like you're a white girl in a black girl’s body.” Hearing things like this almost every day for a year would piss anyone off. So in defense of this, I went back to ‘talking black.' When I say 'talking black' what does that mean? Well, it means that I essentially spoke very stereotypically. Doing this was all very draining and caused me to go into an identity crisis. (All at 11 years old by the way). Luckily the pandemic happened (said someone for the 1st time ever). Truthfully I think that COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise, for me that is. It allowed me to get away from it all and have time to reflect on all that is myself. Going back into school I barely spoke. This decision still affects me to this day. When it comes to topics like race or discrimination, in school people often turn to me and expect me to say something “meaningful” and “insightful”. As if I'm the reincarnation of MLK or the female Malcolm X. But I don't talk like them, and I never will. When I speak I don’t talk white or black. I talk like myself. I speak how Sasha speaks. That is all. Nothing more or nothing less. This is not a hate letter to the black community. This is not an exposé on those I went to school with. This is simply an essay on how I feel, and have felt for the past 15 years of my life. To the one who relates to me reading this, (if I ever upload it anywhere haha). You are seen. Someone understands you. Sometimes, It may seem like the world is too big for anyone to share the same experiences you have, but that is not true at all. Remember you matter. You matter the most to yourself. How you view yourself is all that matters. Stay true to yourself. 


- Sasha, The Nigerian-American Girl who Talks Like Herself.

The author's comments:

I wrote this randomly in the Summer when I remembered that I owned a laptop.

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