Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

You Had An Identity Crisis and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

10 bucks says it’s not Slim Shady.

I’ve always been a bit curious about people who had these experiences with outcastism in school and life. Mostly because I never dealt with them so I struggled to understand how people managed to feel so rejected by so many groups of people for doing nothing more than existing. Or at least that’s how it’s always presented. This was brought to my attention via one of those iReporter segments on CNN called “Being the ‘Token Black Guy'”.

I have no intention of making light of anybody’s struggles. Mmkay? Mmkay. Some of you all clearly had a hard time growing up. But I suppose what shocks me is that I feel like I should have been a prime target for the difficulties of life and school but wasn’t.

Let’s break it down. One, I’m mixed. According to Oprah and Maury, I should have all types of identity issues and complexes. But I did identify as “Black” so maybe that mitigated that issue. Two, I was probably 5’1″ until I was 16 years old. Do you know what it’s like to have a little sister who TOWERS over you? No? I do. That sh*t sucked. But despite my lack of height, I was always one of the most popular kids in school AND managed to make and play on the basketball team at various age/grade levels. And I ain’t no baller. I can ball, but there’s a reason I decided to become a thespian in 10th grade. Despite going to school in arenas where I was definitely in the minority – and being in all of the smart classes – I never ever felt like a token. Not once can I ever say that I felt like I was the representative for all Blackness.

Or like you know how people who tend to have some sort of racial identity issue tend to have gone through some phase of trying to fit into some box of what they were expected to be versus who they felt like they were internally? Yeah, never saw that box.

Okay, there was that one time – at bandcamp – where I was asked to teach people how to rap. And in one of my classes in high school, it was assumed that I could sing. I didn’t even have to audition for the lead singing role in our French Competition Chorus (yes, I was in one of those). I lost the hell out of that job though once it was determined that while I had no shame, I also had no real singing chops. Or at least I couldn’t sing like Aladdin. They still put me out front though. You’ve got to let a peacock fly.

Even then, I still didn’t feel any type of way about it. You want me to sing? Word. Bet that up. Let’s do it. Then again, I’ve always been okay with being a stereotype. And I mean that literally. One of my mottos has always been “you waiting for a n*gga to show up? N*gga here now”. I almost relish in it at times. I swear if I had a stack of one’s to throw up in the air right now, I’d do it. While drinking Hennessey. Through a straw. Even I’m amazed that I don’t have any tattoos.

Maybe my hindsight just sucks. Perhaps if I were to do a little examination of my own life I’d find the places where I wasn’t quite “Black” enough for the Black kids or “white” enough for the white kids. But at the same time, I’m not sure that my own temperament would ever allow me to give a f*ck. You might do you, but I’mma do me. And you will respect my gully at the same time. Life has always been that type of party for me. No matter where I go, I get along with everybody and never actually worry about how I’m being perceived. Well, that’s not completely true – I ain’t going full Trinidad James on anybody at work. But I did get spotted out in public by a coworker once while I had on a bandana and looked like an extra from Menace II Society apparently. That coworker never spoke to me that day but did tell a select group of my other coworkers that he saw me out and was damn near startled at what he saw. Mama say mama sa mamaku sah.

I never experienced an identity crisis of any sort though my little sister did. She wanted to be peach like my mama when we were little then then turned into Tupac’s wife when she was in middle school. I just chalk that up to self discovery though interestingly, my high yella sister had NOTHING but dark-skinned friends. She had one friend who was more brown than dark, but she was still a full oil change darker than my sister.

So I’m just curious about that experience. I also wonder if either I was too oblivious that I wasn’t accepted by anybody so I just didn’t realize it? Or maybe it’s more simple (humblebrag coming in 5…4…3…2…1) when you’re one of the popular kids, none of this stuff matters. SGA El Presidente? Check. Homecoming court? Check. Honor Society? Check. Sports? Check. But that didn’t happen despite anything. I pretty much Obama’d high school – got in good with the white women and the homeys. And I was smart. I always felt like the smart kids were as popular as the jocks where I lived. In fact, we were. But that’s neither here nor there

I guess the larger point is, how do these identity crises arise? Of any sort? Where does the tokenism come from? Is it a self-fulfilling prophesy or is it real and I just somehow managed to miss that whole boat despite some of my personal characteristics. Like I wonder how much of this type of stuff we bring on ourselves or if its just personality driven, so popularity is the great equalizer? Me no know.

What do you think? Did you have any identity issues or tokenism crises? When did your sense of self manifest itself?

Who are you?


DMVers: Along with REMINISCE happening this weekend on Saturday, December 1, 2012 (RSVP for free before 11pm here: http://reminiscedc.eventbrite.com), Panama will be a panelist at Busboys & Poets at 5th and K on Monday, December 3rd from 7-9PM. The name of the panel is The Black Man’s Wishlist moderated by Krystal Glass, and will discuss relationships from a male’s perspective, which is perfect for the holiday season! Head to krystalglassempire.com for more information and tickets!

Also, the homey Crystal Marie from AWordorThree.com reminded me that today is Giving Tuesday. What this means is that for all you folks who blew your wad on Black Friday, perhaps giving a few bucks to a worthy cause isn’t out of the picture. There are a ton of causes that organizations that can use any and all donations and help. No guilt trips or anything and I know most of us already do our parts in various ways, but if you can, then you should. I truly believe that. Just a thought…

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

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