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The unspoken shade of black

A young black man tells how it felt to be dubbed the whitest black kid at his school

Do you have any idea how it feels to be dubbed the whitest black kid by your own people? Or to be constantly harassed because you aren’t the stereotypical black man your white peers saw on that one episode of Fox News? How about the usual, “You talk white?”

I grew up in Westlake, Ohio, a predominantly white city about 15 minutes outside of Cleveland. I went to school with my twin brother, so it wasn’t like I was the only black kid there. With him, I had a best friend right from the start, an advantage most kids didn’t have. I’m thankful for him because making friends was very difficult for me, and it all started in middle school. 

I played basketball and football at the time, and honestly, I was an average player. It’s not like there was any spotlight on me because of my talents or lack thereof. But I vividly remember, one practice, I was off my game, and one of the older black players who people looked up to was pointing and snickering my way. It’s not the first time things like that happened. I just ignored him and his friends and went on with practice, until they came up to me and said, “Damn, you must be the whitest (n-word) out here.” Naturally, it pissed me off, so I started arguing with him. But his white friend really caught me off guard. 

“I ain’t ever seen a black guy talk white before,” he said, laughing along with everybody else. 

I remember going home that day just confused and upset but thankful the whole ordeal was over — or so I thought.  I guess word must have gone around because the next day I was officially dubbed “the whitest black kid of the school.” 

At the time, I figured the whitest black kid just meant I wasn’t good at sports, but I have everybody at school to thank for the “official” definition. 

It meant I didn’t talk black or act black while assuming the social expectations of white society. I never knew there were guidelines that I needed to follow as a black man. If anything, I blame whoever didn’t give me the How To Be Black 101 guide. 

The funny thing is I always thought this was some middle school or high school crap that was only temporary. 

I was wrong. It’s followed me into the real world.

Over the period of one summer, I have been asked whether I have some sort of “funny” accent. I have faced statements like, “You’re different from other black people,” or “Do you ever let your ghetto side slip?” I once had a girl tell me I would have accomplished nothing in life if it wasn’t for Westlake white-washing me, but there’s so much happening there that it’s a story for another day.

Honestly, the main reason I have so much trouble with this whole whitest black kid dilemma is people out here really believe they can just revoke my “black card.” In America right now, blacks are being discriminated against and seen as a threat. 

As a black male living in America, I am seen to be the biggest threat of them all. I’m living through this each and every day. 

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I don’t get to decide one day I’m white or one day I’m black. I don’t care where you come from, who you are, and I don’t care what kind of upbringing you had. I will always be black until the day I die, and that’s all I will ever know. 

So what gives you the right to determine or revoke my “black card” as I’m facing injustices and racism toward me and my people?

harrisv7@miamioh.edu

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