From mental illnesses, to interests in manga, as a Black person, you’ve more than likely heard similar statements during an intimate confession with a friend or family member:
“Quit trying to act white!” or “You’re hanging around too many white people…”
Well excuse me for breathing, and being interested in more than just Scandal and Nicki Minaj. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of these things, but God forbid you stray from what’s deemed familiar and interesting territory by the rest of your friends and family. All of the sudden, you’re labeled as that Black person who listens to “white people music”, the one that “watches weird and corny crap” and dresses “weird”. Or when it comes to expressing feelings of depression: “you’re just spoiled! You can’t name anything going on in your life that tough. You hang around white people too much.” Or maybe you’re even told you’re ashamed of your own culture to take an interest in anything out-of-the-ordinary.
The Diversity Center on my campus (otherwise known as the place the Black kids hung out to watch TV, fix food, and hold events) was the place I always went to after class. Since I commuted to campus, I didn’t really have any other place to go. I knew some people pretty well, but I wasn’t on campus enough to get extremely chummy with a lot of people. It was honestly okay, I loved the people who ran the DC and they loved me. I also got along swell with the people that came and went. I just kept to myself with most of my interests. Once I became treasurer of the Asian Culture Enthusiasts organization, I’d sit in our office during office hours to watch anime and eat lunch, like a private theater. I had a friend or two who dug anime as well, but it was definitely the minority.
I remember another time I was shot down for another of my interests, when a select few people from campus got to go to New Orleans. A lot of moments in the hotel led to getting ready with music playlists and Pandora, and everyone turned down when I’d play my unknown “white people music.” They’d switched songs before the first of mine was even finished.
I didn’t dare request a hip, Korean pop song to be played at the roller rink when there was an event held there.
The Diversity Center truly is diverse, and you can find people on campus with similar interests if you search hard enough or create a group for it. I loved that place and wouldn’t change my experiences for the world. Just know that whether you’re in college, high school, middle school, or reading this on your iPhone 6 during recess (why?), your feelings and interests are valid, and aren’t and shouldn’t be restricted to color.
I think this awareness needs to be made toward both lighthearted topics such as music and television shows, as well as the more serious, like mental illness. Within our culture, it’s believed that we’re a strong people, and we are. But that doesn’t make us immune to mental illnesses or bashing for staying true to ourselves. That doesn’t give anyone or anything a reason to discredit our feelings or cries for help, yet I don’t know how many times I’ve heard or seen these cries for help be diagnosed by friends and family as “hanging around too many white people.”
I’ve definitely heard other excuses people have made to these warning signs and confessions made in confidence: “if you can’t pinpoint why you’re sad, then you’re just spoiled”, “”there’s nothing wrong with you, quit acting up”, or “if you’d stop acting like you’re white, you’d stop all that other nonsense.”
All this does is discredits you as a human being. And although it would be nice for mental illnesses to disappear as easily as some people believe they can, it’s not reality. So you can chose whether you’d like to let people who don’t know you as well as you know yourself dictate your feelings, or you can stay true to yourself and your passions, and/or search for help, whether anyone physically in your life agrees that’s what you need or not. If I were you, I’d choose the latter. And although people like me and many others online aren’t with you physically, we’re always willing to advise and support when people in your life aren’t. I’ve seen many helpful posts and links just on BGN alone. You yourself are never alone, through the good and bad.
Featured Image from Pretty Black Girls In Glasses
Cierra is the creator of ditchingadulthood.com, a supportive blog community for adults with unconventional interests and passions such as art, cartoons, anime, video games, and the like. In her spare time she enjoys writing, creating art, reading, studying Korean and Japanese, and cooking. Coconut Chobani makes her knees buckle.