As a black woman nearing the age of fifty, I’ve found myself often reflecting on my past and realizing that I’ve never quite fit in-anywhere. Although I was born in the south, I’ve lived in California since I was a year old. As a child I remember our first drive back to Arkansas for the family reunion and Juneteenth celebration. Never had I seen such an abundance of black folks in one place. I was confused by the sight of blacks working in the local stores and gas stations. Everyone seemed friendly, honking their horns and waving. I also couldn’t help but notice that some of the white folks I encountered were distant and not as engaging as they were back in Cali. There was an insidious glare in their eyes that at the time, I didn’t understand.
My mother welcomed everyone into our home. Color was of no concern to her, for she only had two rules as she would say. “Don’t lie to me ’bout nothin’ and don’t steal from me and we’ll be alright.” Although it took a few decades, eventually I learned and began noticing certain behaviors of people that I questioned which slowly began to alter my perspective. I’d reflect back on instances when during school age, I was constantly asked “why do you talk white?” That question always confused me. What did they mean? That was the beginning of basically being isolated by the so-called peers who looked like me.
It makes sense to me that our behaviors are learned from our enviornment. These are my experiences which have ultimately caused me to wonder, if and where do I actually fit in. Because I’ve always felt a disconnect with blacks and unable to relate on certain levels (music for example), and while at the same time my experiences with some whites have showed me that when it comes down to it, regardless of my skills, integrity or professionalism, they most likely will choose their own. Therefore, leaving me to be stuck somewhere in the middle.
First off, being named after the lengendary country singer (a story for later) didn’t help me to score any “cool points” in the black community. Aside from that, my parents had lots of white friends, especially after moving to Sacramento from Oakland when I was eight. I don’t know exactly how conscious they were when it came to black society. My stepdad worked every extra shift available while my mother didn’t have much education nor work experience, yet did the best she could. They never talked to me or taught us much about anything relevant concerning black culture. Our television stayed tuned in to shows like Knight Rider, Dukes of Hazzard or my mother’s favorite’s Dallas and Knotts Landing. Ocassionally, Shaft and George Jefferson would find their way into our living room. We lived in prodominately white middle class neighborhoods which also meant prodominantely white schools. My brother’s and I listened to artists like Duran Duran, Phill Collins, Boy George and so on. I’d never even had a black teacher that I can recall until my junior year of high school while living in Michigan temporarily. I have however, experienced that awkward feeling of being the only black in the office when the media announces the death of Michael Jackson or that Obama has won the election. All eyes on me, waiting for my reaction.
Due to the abuse from both of my parents, I had already become an introvert and have always been socially awkward, even around relatives. Often in my own household of step-siblings, I felt like an outsider which meant I was usually in a corner somewhere, alone simply observing. Not much has changed today although some people would disagree. My work ethics have often resulted in the advancement of a leadership position allowing for a bit more ease. Even in work enviornments socializing was not always easy for me. I was extremely timid. My thought process was to stay focused, be thorough and utilize my time wisely. The only sport I knew was softball, but people only seemed to discuss football or basketball so there were rare opportunities to inject myself into the conversation. I was baically clueless to many issues of the world and simply didn’t have any input to offer. The thing is, for me, there’s a difference between my private life and my life as a professional. The only situations in which they compare is when it comes to running a tight ship so-to-speak and doing my best to obey the rules.