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It's Not OK: A Black Girl 101

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I am no
longer going to let you off the hook.

I don’t
care if you are really embarrassed.

It’s
not ok to confuse me with another black girl.

It's
just not ok.

It’s
especially not ok to confuse me with a black girl four shades darker or four
inches shorter.

You
know what. It’s not ok even if the girl bears a passing resemblance to me.

I don’t
care if you feel bad.

You
should feel bad.

It’s
just not ok.

It’s
especially not ok if I had a long conversation with you, over an hour. You had
enough time to see what features I have that differentiate me from other black
girls. (I should mention that I am six feet tall.)

It’s
not ok to confuse me with another black girl in our high school alumnae magazine.
This is really not ok because all you had to do was fact check. Grab a person –
heck, grab a black person that went to high school with us -- and check. (Is it
any wonder why I’ve never donated to our alumni giving campaign?)

One tip
to avoid this confusion; don’t use our hair as visual indicators. Thanks to the
Obamas and Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair,
newspapers and magazines are covering black hairstyles in droves. Please pick one
up and you will learn that we change our hair in dramatic ways
all the time. When attempting to tell us apart, why not try something less
ephemeral, like our faces.

At a shockingly homogenous, progressive
conference, a guy came up to me, hugged me tight, and grazed my non-existent
ass. I pulled away knowing he had confused me with another black girl. He
realized his mistake and said, “You’re not the girl I hung out with last
night.”

“Nope.”

“Oh, we
had a really great time.”

When
you figure out that you have made this mistake, it’s not ok to all of a sudden act like a freak around
me all night. And do you really need to hide behind people to avoid me? That’s
a little unnecessary.

This
mistake is not ok for many reasons. One lesser-known reason is that sometimes
my frustration around this issue drives me to be unnecessarily standoffish to
other black girls at social events. An example: When I am the only chip in the
cookie (code for black person in an all white setting) and another black girl
enters that sort of looks like me, I get a sinking feeling. I think, “Great,
people are going think I’m that chick all night!”  Then I don’t even
bother talking to the other girl because seeing us together will later cause
confusion. And one day, in a week or so, some guy will come up to me thinking I’m that other girl. I’m telling you. It
happens.

My Dad
used to confuse young, white men all the time. While watching Terence
Malik’s ensemble drama, The Thin Red Line, he
couldn’t tell the difference between Jim Caviezel and Ben Chaplin. It made the movie really
confusing for him. I couldn’t understand what was so confusing. Jim Caviezel has a steely intensity and beautiful, blue eyes. Ben Chaplin has a boy
next-door kind of look and brown, puppy dog eyes. Dad said he didn’t look at
people’s eye color and he’s not into men so they all looked the same to him.

I’m not
going to say that I haven’t confused people of the same ethnicity. Of course I
have. Everyone has. But if I’m not 100% sure, I just play it off. If you have
even a millisecond of doubt, please just re-ask the person her name. Trust me it’s better to ask me my name
again than to call me Carmela. I promise.

This
entry is dedicated to all the black girls I’ve been confused for over the
years: Moira, Kibra, Isha, Kim, Jasmine, Michelle, and the nameless, faceless
others. I salute you.