Hey everyone! So something crazy happened after my first blog post, someone I had never met emailed me and asked me if she could contribute to my blog! In all fairness, N.S. (not her real name), is a friend of a friend but we have never met and the only things we share are being brown and feeling out of place, especially now.
So here’s something I can relate to and hope you can to. A little something from fellow brown girl, N.S.
Growing up in a privileged white suburb of Chicago the only thing I wanted was to fit in. I wanted to feel like I had a place. But no matter how well I dressed or how much I distanced myself from those the same color as me I was never welcomed into the society I so badly wanted to be a part of.
In middle school I was a victim of bullying. I’m not talking about healthy teasing that builds character. I’m talking about the kind of bullying where you wonder if anyone would miss you if you decided not to wake up the next day. I got it from everyone-boys and girls. It was about the color of my skin, about my looks or anything else they could come up with. The power of those comments depleted my self confidence and self esteem. But towards the end of middle school I realized the only way to put a stop to the bullying was to blend in with the others. To become a person no one could say anything about.
In high school I put my new approach into use by camouflaging myself. As many of you probably remember, Abercrombie was once all the rage. So, it was only natural that a girl with my aspirations also wear the stone washed ultra low rise jeans, button down and puffer vest. In my mind a non-white girl in A&F would get a lot more white cred than the one wearing Aeropostale. Abercrombie’s genius marketing strategies played into my insecurities, promising me a different life where I’d frolic around with the pretty popular kids. I bought into it. And it never bothered me that their models never looked like me. I didn’t even think twice when I went as an Abercrombie model for Halloween (long story) and was lectured by my neighbor about their unethical business practices and nearly pornographic poses. These were my dreams, being a white girl that is.
I took pride in my white washed persona. I managed to maintain a secret life, one where I’d attend family functions dressed in cultural garb, speak a different language and eat the traditional food. On the occasion that we’d have to make a stop at the grocery store on the way to the party or on the way back I was reluctant to get out of the car. I was afraid of running into someone I knew from school and them catching a glimpse of this “other” person. I had worked so hard to be like them, I couldn’t afford to ruin the reputation I had so carefully crafted.
I don’t remember when the shift happened, probably after I went off to college and returned home my first summer. I began being described as “exotic”. Because “pretty” for some reason wasn’t quite the right fit. Some of the formerly popular white guys even started to talk to me like I was human and with the same level of attention I’d seen them give the perfect blondes in high school. For four years this is what I had wanted, to be seen as one of them. But when the moment finally came I couldn’t enjoy that victory. I did not understand what had changed in just one year that made me good enough or safe to talk to. More than anything it made me sad and it is one of the many reasons why I left Chicago and don’t plan to come back.
Though today I live in a diverse city, I am still constantly aware that I am different from most. Sometimes it’s because of the way someone looks at me or when I notice all of a sudden that I’m the only person of color in a meeting, room or bar. Even when I date, every time I’m talking to a white guy and he ghosts on me I think to myself “would it have gone differently if I were a white girl?” As ridiculous as that thought may seem to others who haven’t experienced it, that is my reality and the reality for many, many others. Despite this, I have realized that these differences give me my strength. And though I may still be on a my own journey of self discovery, I am no longer ashamed of my roots, my identity or the color of my skin. This is who I am and I choose to be me even if it’s not the easier path to be on.
One of the best parts of being a brown girl is comparing your brown girl experiences with friends and in my case (and now N.S.’s) strangers. I recently developed this feeling that I had a duty to express my feelings and opinions–as if anyone cares what I have to say. But, some of you do care and quite honestly it has been very therapeutic and apparently it’s helping some of you guys too, which is very cool. In my opinion, sharing experiences is the best way for people from different walks of life to understand something they personally never had to experience.
Thank you, N.S. for your contribution, to the first of many I hope. #browngirlsforever
Want to know more about N.S.? Follow her on Instagram @ninsingh10
S/O to Rafael Corona for the Artwork up top! Check out more of his great artwork on Instagram @RCGallery
Follow me on Instagram @Brown_Girl_Talks