how have these degrees made me relate differently to blackness?

following up from the first piece i wrote about this, i wanted to write specifically about how my credentialing process i think has disconnected me from blackness and black people as it currently exists/as i currently understand it.

even as i start to write these thoughts down, they morph and expand and shift and evolve. but i gotta try!

one of my earliest memories in elementary school was being told by my black classmates that i was too white. “why do you talk white?” “why you talking like them?” “why you tryna sound so smart?” that was a public school in florida and there were lots of dynamics at play shaping me to be who i was and shaping who they were. and the “too white for the black kids; too black for the white kids” struggle has been written and theorized about many times at this point so i won’t expand on that here. but it was def an early wounding of mine. and, the more painful part of this experience for me was that i never felt explicit or outright rejection from the white kids (or at least, i don’t remember it). the black kids made it clear with their words that i was too white for them; the white kids either didn’t say anything or seemed to accept me enough.

and, even though it looked different, that same type of dynamic carried on throughout the end of my master’s degree. although it wasn’t as explicit and direct as i aged, the feeling (from groups of fellow black students) was often still the same: you’re too white to be here. like side-eye (resulting in shame) when i didn’t know some cultural reference or song. or just not getting invited to stuff. being on the advanced academic track just felt like it distanced me, especially from the more working class black folks around me. there’s more to say about the class dynamics here and i probably will at some point, but i’ll hold it for now.

as i have gotten farther from the academy, the distances that felt so far have started to shrink for sure. there’s overall more respect from people about the fact that i earned these degrees. and people care a lot less about degrees the farther out everyone is from college age as well as the farther from social groups near or strongly influenced by universities.

but there’s still a sense sometimes that i literally can’t communicate in words or body language or some cultural ties with black folks who haven’t gotten high school or college degrees.

some of what i know about all of this is influenced by narrow definitions of blackness that come from places where people’s experience of blackness is quite small (black people’s experience of black people and non-black people’s experience of black people). i know that being in a place with a wider range of black life shifts some of the narrowness that people understand blackness to be (ex: where being book smart is not the same as being white). and as more of society understands blackness as broader than silly dominant narrative depictions, this whole area of experience changes for me and hopefully everyone. but it still impacted me while growing up and getting these degrees.

and then there’s family dynamics…

words / writing / post-processing
526w / 2min / 4min