This morning I saw my dear blogging friend, Osheta’s post about writing every day in October on the same subject.  I wondered, could I do that? Mmmm… Yesterday I read Hollywood Housewife’s beautiful post about her 7 yr. marriage.  It stuck with me.  Probably in particular, because I’m going through the exact opposite. But there was something about it, especially it’s brevity that made me think & think & think & think.  (I love when a blog post does that to me).  I was wondering the other day: do I have it in me to write consistently again, with brevity, on non-confrontational, non deeply personal, non-soul-bearing things?  What could it hurt to try?  I even created a list!

So.  This month, I am going to attempt something new: writing short posts – GASP- that are about ordinary life & everyday experiences.    Here we go…

31 DAYS

Day 1 – Herrrrrrrr

I needed a change.  Usually, when I need a change I cut off of all my hair.  I’ve done this after a huge college break-up, after Dave & I lost our 1st child to miscarriage & after my Dad died.  I’ve been trying to grow my hair out so I opted for blond, of course.  Makes sense.  While I’m there, why not have Jo-Jo press it to?  What could 2 weeks of straight hair possibly hurt?

Back in 1999, I had a cute little Halle Berry pixie cut complete with creamy crack.  I thought it’d be fun to foray into blond highlights.  After it was done, I looked really white.  Like, an actual full-blooded white girl.  It was nuts.  People started treating me differently -better, I should clarify.  I was passing.  I passed.  All of the weirds.  The style only lasted for one week before I went back to Bruce and said, “yo, take me back to black cuz I aint tryin’ to look like no white girl. I’m having a full out existential identity crisis, yo!!!!!!” Not even kidding.

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I knew last week that the potential for looking like a white girl was there & I knew people on the internet were going to light my ass up for it.  I knew it. But it’s my life and my hair and WHATEVER really.

Is it okay for a mixed race woman to look like a white girl?  Halle Berry, Barack Obama, Mariah Carey, Zendaya, Bob Marley, Boris Kodjoe, Stacey Dash, Tony Parker, Tracey Ellis Ross, Derek Jeter —– would it be okay for any of them to look like or be perceived as white?  Like me, they all have one white parent & one black parent.  Folks seem comfortable calling President Obama black but I’ve never heard of Derek Jeter being referred to that way. Same thing with Mariah Carey.  Us SUPER light skinned folks get all caught up in the middle, and in some cases, judged far more harshly. I.e. How dare you be able to pass?  You UPPITY NEGRO!

After my hair was done, I took a gajillion selfies trying to find myself in this altered state. I did feel weird. I did feel white(r). I did feel too different.  Too much. Too blond.  Too vulnerable even for Instagram. (I instagrammed any old ways).

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And then of course, the internet happened. Men started commenting about how I was an “idiot” for “wanting to look white.”  And how sad it was that “I hate myself so much.”  And that I’m a “sad excuse of a black woman”. Initially, I felt sad.  Attacked.  And then after a day or so, I got fairly angry. On Facebook, I. went. off.

I took some time to pray about it.  I journaled.  It doesn’t really matter why I straightened my hair or dyed it blond.  It doesn’t really matter if I look white or am perceived as white.  It doesn’t really matter if I do want to look white or actively hate being perceived as white. It doesn’t or shouldn’t matter to me –what anyone else in the world thinks about something as superfluous as my hairstyle which, is prone to change randomly.  This style doesn’t mean I’m trying to Beyoncify myself. I’m not trying to make a grand statement. It’s just hair. I just needed a change.  That is all.

I am not my hair.  I feel the tug of war though…. that thing that happens as a black-identifying woman where the weight of others perceptions of me, my body, my personhood, my sexuality feel weighted: as if my value is 100% dependent on whether or not I am labeled strong & beautiful by black men, nice & pleasant by white women & successful & intelligent by white men.  And DAMNED if you do go out of those carefully manicured roles.  Then you may as well be a hood-rat or video vixen, on the opposite end, an angry black woman or an uppity negro.  You can’t win. I can’t win, I know that. I will never win in the court of public perception.

As a black woman, who sometimes looks white —which I am prone to do, what with 50% of my Italian-American DNA— I’m working on truly loving myself.  My beautiful yellow, super light-skinned self.

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Is that okay with you?  Is it okay with you that I look white?

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Cuz I’ll just be over here trying not to care what your opinion is.

 

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  • http://whynotmom.com/ TONIA L. CLARK

    Totally off topic, sorta. But after I saw your photo of your blonde self, I wondered if you would be treated any different as you went out in the world. I think it would be an interesting experiment for a white woman to get made up as a black woman for a day or two and vice versa.
    I think you should write about your experience as a ‘white woman for a week’. How did strangers who didn’t know you treat you while you shopped or did your daily routines.
    I have no idea what being a black woman would feel like or be treated like. If I didn’t have a special needs son who would be traumatized by the sudden “change”, I would do the experiment myself. (Don’t you think that would make an interesting documentary though? I have however considered making drastic changes to my hairstyle just because I’m tired of the same ol, same ol.
    Grace do what makes you feel good about you. You’re going through a lot right now. Nobody should be judging you based on your hair style. Your heart is still the same. You are still Grace. I think your gorgeous inside and it shines throughout, that’s all that matters right?

  • Breia B

    I have so many feelings with having read this. Not for me, but for my beautiful half white/half black daughters. They’ve known since they were tiny that they were biracial. It hasn’t been a problem, yet. But I wonder about when they have to stand up for themselves, will they have to deal with the “Angry Black Woman” crap that I have had to deal with simply because I refuse to allow people to run all over me. I stand up for myself and I teach them to do it as well.

    Back to your topic at hand– Is it ok for you to look white? YES, it is very okay. It’s not like you’re trying to get anything out of it, you’re just being you. And 50% of you is white. Sometimes one side stands out more than the other. Nothing to be done about it, except for you to embrace you. I don’t think you’re passing for anything, you’re just being you and that is all that anyone can really be.

    Love you, even if no one else ever does.

  • http://www.allthingsbeautifulblog.com/ Alyssa Bacon-Liu

    As a fellow light-skinned (I’m super pale compared to you!) biracial woman, I feeeel this. It’s hard to figure out your own identity when everyone seems to have an opinion about who you are or who you should be. But I think you have a good attitude about it. You don’t exist to conform to what other people think and you don’t owe anyone a damn thing.

    Rock that blonde hair. On your side, girl.

  • http://blog.sherisa.net/ Sherisa D

    It is WILD to me–unabashedly WILD–that people really came at your neck. I am not mixed-race but I am definitely one of those black women who doesn’t want to be summed up by my hair, which I happen to wear natural only because it’s easiest for ME. I, too, have shaved my hair off repeatedly. I feel really sorry that people are comfortable with attacking women for something as silly. Do what you want. Be who you are. Love you boo.

  • Arnebya

    It is absolutely fine for you to look like you. That people equate blondeish hair with white women only is just something for them to argue over. Hair is hair whether it’s purple, black, or blonde. And you are you, not trying to be something or someone else. We will be shamed for natural hair and permed hair. We will be shamed for blonde or jet black. We will be shamed regardless. It’s up to us to pick which attacks to respond to, if at all.

  • Erica

    I love it!! I am always amazed at how bold you are when changing your hair styles! I can’t believe people were making comments like that. I guess hair never really matter that much to me, if you want it natural, wear it natural, if you want it pressed, press it, if you want to dye it, dye it, if you want a perm, perm it, if you want to cut it all off, cut it!!! Who cares, its YOUR hair!

  • pastordt

    You may look any ole way you want to look. Good grief, it is JUST HAIR. And it’s fun to mix it up, right? I see no denial of any heritage, nor grand statement of identity. Just a change. Sigh. People are so weird sometimes.

  • emmillerwrites

    I love all your hair and outfit of the day posts because you never try to look like anything other than you. And that’s beautiful. Looking forward to keeping up with you over the next 31days!

  • Alexis

    Girl, you need to listen to India Airie’s song “I Am NOT my HAIR”! Ain’t that the truth! :) Great post. Don’t be afraid to be you and look White or Black or both because you ARE both BLACK AND WHITE. Forget the ignorant comments. Be YOU! :)

  • Alexis

    Here’s the song by India Arie, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_5jIt0f5Z4