Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I have always been shy. I can't remember a time when I didn't feel reserved or apprehensive about talking to people. I never expect people to remember me. I dread passing an acquaintance on the street. Do I say hello? When do I say hello? Do I wait for them to acknowledge me? What if they don't? What if they think I'm strange for speaking to them? For years I would regularly solve this dilemma by rummaging in my purse, or just looking down and away, pretending not to see the person. The problem is, this doesn't work when the person does remember you. They know you're avoiding speaking to them. And sadly, people never assume you're shy. They assume you're stuck-up or snooty.

If the other person is Black, and you, like me are Black and have light skin, they assume that you're stuck-up because you believe your pinkish skin makes you superior to other Black people.

Now I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, so by the time I went out into the world and started encountering groups of Black people, I was almost completely ignorant to much of Black culture, particularly "etiquette." I had no idea that it was expected for Black folks to acknowledge and greet each other in any situation. So the combination of being shy, and being unaware of what was expected, started getting me in trouble with other Black folks as early as junior high school. But I started to become full aware of it in high school.

"She ain't all THAT! Thinks she's white!" I would hear Black girls whisper to each other as they passed me in the hallway. At first I just assumed that they didn't like the fact that most of my friends were White. I'd dealt with that before. My first boyfriend, in junior high school, and I broke up because he told me his sister said he couldn't see me anymore unless I stopped, "being an Oreo," and dumped all my White friends and made new Black ones.

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