Confessions of a Black girl: Abandoning stereotypes & redefining my identity

My Blackness isn’t defined by the clothes I wear, the music I listen to, or the cultural references I understand


I would describe the first few decades of my life as a 21 year-long identity crisis. 

Most of my childhood was spent in predominantly white spaces. I grew accustomed to being one of the few—if not the only—person of colour in my classes. 

Even outside of classrooms, a lot of the spaces I found myself in were predominantly white. Existing in these spaces where there was no one who looked like me, or had any of my shared experience severely affected my self-perception.

Like many other children of colour growing up in white spaces, I was constantly being teased by my peers. From my “ethnic” lunches to my household habits and even my ever-changing hairstyles, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I’m the daughter of two African immigrants. My parents moved to Canada from Sierra Leone to give my sister and I access to opportunities they never had, and I'm extremely grateful for their sacrifice. 

My parents wanted nothing but the best for my sister and I. 

They wanted us to fit in and succeed, and the best way for us to do this was to align ourselves as close to whiteness as possible—or so they thought. 

For a lot of my childhood, I was deterred from engaging in activities that were stereotypically Black. My parents didn’t want us to “act Black” because they feared how people would perceive us. 

For them, the best way to “avoid” racism was to assimilate into our white community and act white. 

I recall a conversation with a group of my Black friends in the 10th grade. We were discussing music and they said I wouldn’t know who a certain rapper was because I was too whitewashed, and I was ultimately excluded from the discussion. 

This experience profoundly affected me. I carried it with me throughout my adolescence and into early adulthood. 

It felt like I wasn’t Black enough for Black people, but I obviously wasn’t white enough to fit in amongst my white friends. I didn’t wear the right clothes, I didn’t use the right slang, and I didn’t listen to the right music. I felt unwanted by both communities. 

This led to a long period of self-hatred, embarrassment, and a desperation to fit in that followed me all the way to university. I frequently allowed, and often excused, various microaggressions because I wanted people to like me. 

I didn’t embrace my culture. I wore clothes that didn't align with my personal style. I listened to music I didn’t particularly enjoy and shrunk parts of myself to be more palatable to those around me. 

I internalized white beauty standards, intellectual values, and cultural sensibilities because I felt rejected by my own community, and was so desperate for someplace to fit in. 

But once again, I felt like I was constantly being scrutinized. I had white friends who frequently said they were “Blacker” than I was because they knew more Drake songs than I did, or because they understood or participated in activities that are typically associated with Black culture. 

Throughout this time, I maintained a desire to immerse myself in Black culture and embrace my Black identity. However, whenever I tried to do so, I was accused of being too loud, acting rachet, or “doing too much” by my white peers. But when they would do the same thing, they were seen as cool and cultured. 

I now realise I was allowing other people to define my Blackness and my Black identity. 

I was labelled as whitewashed because I didn’t fit into their perceptions and standards of how Black women should be. No matter what I endured, I never forgot I was Black—I simply tried to hide and supress that part of myself. 

It took a long time for me to rediscover and embrace my Blackness. I’ve decided to stop allowing people to police my identity—and it’s liberating. 

I’m no longer afraid or embarrassed to showcase parts of my Blackness or my African heritage. 

I openly and proudly listen to my favourite African songs. I’ve also recently discovered my passion for R&B music.  

I share parts of my culture with those around me. I refuse to let people get away with microaggressions because I no longer feel the need to be accepted by people who don’t respect me. 

My Blackness isn’t defined by the clothes I wear, the music I listen to, or what cultural references I understand. It’s defined simply by the fact that I am Black, and I was born Black. And the ways in which I choose to appear in the world and express myself doesn’t detract from this fact. 

Just because I might not fit into someone’s stereotypical perception of how a Black person should be doesn‘t take away from who I am.

I’m slowly learning to celebrate all parts of myself, my African culture and heritage, and my Black identity and all that comes with it. 

For me, rediscovering and redefining by Blackness has been the start of my journey to finally accepting myself. I have a lot of things to learn and unlearn, and although I still have a long way to go, I’m excited to one day be in a place where I’m unapologetically myself. 


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