Hey, folks. Today I want to talk about something that's been a major aspect of my life since about middle school: biculturalism. It was only recently, in a class discussion about the identity issues that many Latino Americans face, that I realized that that term applied to me as a black woman in America.
From a young age I've had countless experiences in which I've been told that I'm acting or talking "white," which is an extremely complex statement with underlying tones of the interconnectedness of culture and racism in American socialization. If I am speaking what the public education system teaches as "proper English," rather than Ebonics, certain people, both black and white, will believe and sometimes tell me that I "don't sound black." What does this mean? It means that some people don't believe that black people speak the English taught in schools. To be told that I "act white" by certain black people because of my love of reading, my love of rock music, my love of anything, is to say that there is only one way to be black.
I would suggest that many people listen to the TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie called "The danger of a single story." In addition to this, I would like to point you all to a quote by W.E.B. Du Bois from his book The Souls of Black Folk:
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife -- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.
I won't take you through a history lesson on our country, but I'll point out just a few things for further understanding. African-Americans have played an incredible role in shaping mainstream American culture; from music (jazz, blues, hip hop) to spoken word poetry (Harlem Renaissance to Louder than a Bomb) to dance to fashion, and more. There are things that are very specific to black culture that have been adopted into American culture at large, and the reverse effect is true as well. They are not mutually exclusive, despite the amount of exposure different groups may have to them. But as a black person, as a minority, I will always be exposed to and integrated into American culture, while a white person will not necessarily be integrated into mine.
With that being said, I embrace that I am both black and American. I can't necessarily say that I identify with one before the other, as they are intertwined for me, personally, and I am at peace with being both and the struggles that come with it. I am conscious of the fact that some people will identify me as one before the other, sometimes without the other at all, and that I will be questioned for it.
I love soul food and sushi. Eve's Bayou and Gone with the Wind. Josephine Baker and Audrey Hepburn. Kanye West and Maroon 5. Some will accept it, some won't, but most importantly, I do.