This is for the black kids who grew up white

Humans of Howard | Justin Jenkins | March 4, 2016

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This is for….

the black kids who grew up ‘white’.

The warped awkward puzzling of two cultures that tell you that you don’t fit in anywhere. You’re too black for the white people. And too white for the black people. Where athleticism is connected to your ‘second hamstring’. And pronunciation of words makes you an obvious outlier. You don’t fit in.

They are curious. There is nobody in their million-dollar neighborhood that resembles anything like you. Questions of asking to touch your hair are not out the ordinary. How many spices are on your chicken? Why do you need so much chapstick? They’re innocent enough.

You are now the interpreter of your entire race. A race you barely understood yourself.

The fact that you don’t like Tyler Perry movies is appalling. And the fact you can’t dance makes you a disappointment… because you know… you need to be the obvious source of entertainment. If you haven’t gone through financial struggle? You’re weak. Mentally and physically. An uphill climb the second they realize you didn’t grow up on Martin. The fact that you aren’t on a form of financial aid makes you spoiled. As if you are immune to oppression.

Rules placed upon you without any real context or understanding. Watch what you say. You can’t do this; they can. Don’t walk like that. Back straight. Eyes open. Mouth shut. Every movement analyzed and moderated. Confusion as to why your parent can’t just be chill like other parents. You don’t fit here.

Your name is so exotic. Your name is so basic. You can’t win.

Don’t you know. This isn’t what you’re supposed be? Don’t you know? Anime is for Asians. Don’t you know? Mayo is for white people.

But you think to yourself.

Mayo is delicious.

You’re not comfortable in your own skin because you’re trying to wear everybody else’s.

So first, let me reintroduce myself. My name is Justin E. Jenkins formerly known as Justin Mario Jenkins Reyes.

My closest friends are white, black, rich, impoverished, Jewish, atheist, Christian, and gay…because I remember a certain person saying to judge a person by the content of one’s character and not by the color of their skin. Yes, I am that fast. Not because of my ‘extra’ hamstring but from hard work. Yes, I am from a privileged area. No, you can’t walk over me. Yes, I’m just a student. Yes, I have money but I’m blessed not spoiled and will never apologize for it.  My first love was to ivory skin. My latest to ebony. And then every color in between. I am not less than you because of my skin color. And I am not more than you because of my background.

This is for my mother, my cousins, and of course my sister. Mari, it’s okay to straighten your hair. It doesn’t make you any less beautiful.

This is for the one cookie in the sea of milk.

I am black.

Just not your black

j. Jenkins