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July 13, 2007

Black Woman, White Skin

kenosha robinson

Kenosha Robinson

Photo Credit: Taghi Naderzad

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At a certain point, it occurred to me that I needed to "pick" my race-life would be easier if I aligned myself with a side, rather than constantly explaining myself to both. I chose the blacks. We share a heritage, and in Mississippi, there is real pride within the black community. Still, I felt the need to prove my "blackness." I started speaking slang. I began listening to rap. I thought knowing the words to songs about gold teeth, money, women, and cars would make me sufficiently ghetto.

Despite my efforts, I was still mistaken for a white girl. So I established myself with an entirely different group-the class clowns. I ridiculed myself as a way of pre-empting comments from others, joking about "not being too white to whup your butt!" Other times, I kidded about being just white enough to "claim kidnapping" if my black friends and I ever got pulled over for speeding. But underneath, it was the same old story: I was actually afraid to look at myself in the mirror.

When it came time to choose a college, I considered attending a predominantly black university. "That's what I am," I told my mom. But she was hesitant, and in the end, so was I. Instead, I chose Millsaps, a mostly white, liberal-arts college in Jackson, where I'm now a junior. Here, in the cafeteria, racial segregation lives on: Blacks and whites almost never eat at the same table. A few months ago, some black students showed up at a white fraternity party. They were turned away and told that they were a bunch of . . . well, you can imagine what they were called. Even though no one would ever call me those names, I was still furious. My loyalty is to the black community. I will never set foot in that frat house again.

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