It was seven when it was proposed whiteness was my external motivation. My dark skin tone was something I was going to hate and the community around me let me know it was expected of me. I was eleven when my openly paler aunt accused me of being the family oreo. I retaliated by removing her obvious attempts to obtain white features- her wig. Her self-made wig of straight plastic fibers mimicked the very white she declared my speech attempting to emulate whilst I sported the braids associated with our culture. It was not the first time this family member made blanket denunciation about my external motivations based on my desire to do something different. It is not the first time this accusation was prompted by my vocabulary usage.
It was another aunt who can pass the paper bag test that declared my choice to attend college would mark my difference from the family. Considering her position in the family as the favored due to her skin tone, her observation that my willingness to utilize the social benefits provided to impoverished people in our city baffled me. This access to higher education and to put the straight As I was supposed to obtain were equated to a high school phase based on her interpretation of my undergraduate aspirations.
Up to this point, the only white people I have spent time with were teachers or school administrators. My interactions in white ideals were curated from my reading materials. Acknowledging that Irish and English rapists augment the purity of my Nigerian genetics, I look at my family’s interpretation of racial assimilation games stopped at us vs them mindset. Acquiring an education beyond a high school diploma was a step above comfortable for some reason. It saddens me that the memories of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King or our local pastors wearing their Sunday suits did not breach this passive association of verbal eloquence that I acquired from reading.
When I navigate my self-awareness of being Black to the rest of America while my own culture looked at my skin as a washable stain hiding a white effacer, I continued to balance on this tight rope of internal self-worth over the show worth defined by my social media. I would hate-wash my skin to a smoothness that makes applying lotion a pleasurable experience. I look to keep my skin tone even in its milk chocolate appearance openly longing for the porcelain thin pores that would give me a tempered chocolate appearance. It worked. Eventually, the lazy admissions that acquiring an education did not make me less Black but less emotionally poor guaranteed my social distancing from my family philosophically.
It was a third aunt that shares my skin tone that assumed I would bring home a white boy. It saddened me a bit that my partner would still be labeled a boy in her eyes. Meeting my female partners eliminated this idea for a decade. When I brought home a Black woman for the holidays, it startled them enough to realize my relationship choices would not matter enough to comment. The wait-and-see approach of these assumptions were not developed with keen reflections of my high school upbringing or observations based on my chosen friend groups. These accusations were pulled from an assumption that would make talking about me more an amusing addition to their conversations should it come up.
One would think with these allegations that there would be some level of interest in my romantic proclivities since I was targeted to be the interracial dater of the family. Coupled with coding the new additions to our family as sharing my character traits, my family should want to know more about my romantic dealings and openly monitor my navigations in this space. Be it a lack of interest in me as a person or the casual, I want to be right, aspect of my dating outside my race and gender, the larger observation that my family does not date counters the importance of introducing them to my romantic relationships. That open haphazard interest pairs with not knowing my day-to-day dealings and the people that impact my life and social choices.
It did not come as a surprise to me that alerting my family in meeting my soulmate that their gender was the only joy they took out of that revelation. Not that I had a soulmate, not that I could hear him on the winds, and not that my conversation about the relationship was more dominant than his financial contribution to my social-economic status. It did not matter if he was not providing financial support in the beginning. The mental wear of having him not be present did not factor in the conversations, just the comfort that I would be with a man, and that is something they would be willing to understand. When my ascension took priority over meeting him, something they sport scars over from my mother’s awakening, their lack of joy or follow up on my mental health took no precedence. It should hurt.
When they meet my soulmate and see his gender-fluid appearance paired with his initial desire to inquire about my mental history, what stories they can tell about me and my former place of residence, it will be telling that they did not have the same opportunity with my brother, who brought a new life into the family lineage without letting us meet his former wife’s family.
The fact he is Filipino will be a new addition.