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“You don’t know, and there’s no way in the world for you to find out, what it’s like to be a black woman in this world…”- Ida Scott, from James Baldwin’s Another Country

The globally trending Twitter hashtag #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl reminded me of the quote above, and it’s true. Without being a black woman, it is impossible to know of and associate with their experiences, which, no matter how “integrated” our society is, will be vastly different from the experiences of others.

The trend was inspired by a YouTube web series, which the creator Jada Mosely hopes will become a networking tool for African American women.

#HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl has since been tweeted over 21,000 times in the last 24 hours.

The need to reassert the strong black female voice comes hot on the heels of news stories that have shocked the African American community, such as the tragedy in Charleston and the revelation that NAACP member Rachel Dolezal was falsely posing as a black woman.

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NAACP member Rachel Dolezal presently, and significantly paler in her younger years

Many felt anger towards Dolezal because they felt that she was trivialising the experiences and struggles of a true black woman. Deciding to identify as black, is like “adopting a race and not carrying the burdens,” according to one writer.

Whilst her commitment to her cause is undeniable, many are left confused and baffled at the possibility of a radically new concept that you can identify yourself as a different non-biological race.

But it’s not a radically new concept to me, which is why I cannot bring myself to use the #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl hashtag.

Let’s get one thing straight. I am a mixed raced woman, with mixed white and black Caribbean heritage, and I identify myself as such. I do not identify as white or black.

I do however, know many mixed raced women of black and white descent who identify themselves as “black,” or in rarer cases, as socially “white.”

One of my friends acknowledges that she is mixed race, but identifies more with “white” culture because she was raised by her white family, having no contact with her Indian heritage from her Father’s side. She however, realises that the colour of her skin will prevent her from ever being accepted to identify as “white.”

I consider myself lucky that I have had equal appreciation of my white and black heritage, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced racism, or other social, political and economic struggles from being “coloured.”

As much as I associate with many of the #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl tweets (with hair being a big talking point- if you wear it natural, you look like a “slave,” if you wear a weave or have it relaxed, you’re “trying to be white,”) I feel the hashtag unconsciously excludes girls of various racial backgrounds like me, who do not identify as purely “black.”

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There will never be a #HowItFeelsToBeAMixedRaceGirl hashtag, because everyone of mixed black and white heritage is assumed to be “black,” everyone from white and Chinese/Indian heritage is assumed to be “Asian,” and the list goes on like that, no matter what racial combination you use.

People don’t know how it feels to be a mixed raced girl even less than they know what it’s like to be a black girl.

I have always identified as being mixed race (#tbt)

They don’t know that when I walk down the street with my white mother, some people are assuming that my Dad up and left, when he is actually happily married to my mother and has supported me and my family my entire life.

They don’t know that people ask if my brothers and I have the same father/mother because we all have slightly different skin tones.

They don’t know that I was nicknamed “lighty” for a short period at school, and as a result was excluded from the predominantly black group.

They don’t know that people always put my looks down to my mixed heritage, like God overdosed on the beauty potion when he created all mixed raced people in the same melting pot.

Meet my melting pot family

Family

These are just a few of the reasons as to why I can’t use the #HowItFeelsToBeaBlackGirl hashtag; not just because I don’t identify as black but also because my experiences as a mixed race girl are different from that of a black girl.

And why should mixed raced women be denied the same liberation as black women?

Maybe it’s because the society likes to, quite literally, see things in black and white. Maybe if we saw all the equally beautiful colours in between, we wouldn’t be a society so hell bent on division.

I’m not excusing Dolezal’s actions, and I’m not comparing her to the struggles of racial identity experienced by mixed raced people. But she is a white woman who believes in the voice, freedom and liberation of black women.

And maybe women of all races should liberate each other, rather than female liberation being reduced to a racially exclusive hashtag.

  • Group chats…

    So this is a really good discussion topic, not everyone had given their view but so far:

    I actually agree with her…so often we zone on our problems n forget others
    I think we should just look at as the struggles people face instead of putting race
    Everyone has a struggle that not everyone can relate to.

    Yeah I get what she said right but the whole lets recognise the colours in between to me would bring more division of you get what I mean. The problem isn’t recognising it’s accepting the differences.

    I agree with her slightly, no one knows what someone feels to be anything cos you haven’t worked in the shoes! Everyone’s experience makes them unique and sometime when you share experiences it makes you relate and bond with another person

    LOOOL. I dont think what the girl who pretended to be black was right for doing that.
    But I think black people are racist against other black people. It’s sorta peak. People are just racist nowadays with even others of their colour.
    I also think black people need to get over all this slavery crap. It’s in the past but as African people are they never forget. It’s not everyday talk about racism, sometimes just stop being racist and paranoid about the colour of your skin and move on. Black people become well known nowadays and all this talk about black girls problems is true so they should have the freedom of doing so.
    I don’t think people are open with other people from different cultures. We are a people nowadays that are not open, accepting or dive into cultures we are not familiar with and that’s how racism starts.
    Lastly, people of different cultures should be able to express themselves openly and laugh about white and black people problems because it’s life and it’s true.
    LOOL. Sorry it’s long. That’s what I feel.

    I get what shes saying though but I still dont think its the same thing when she tried to relate it to the Rachel woman. She spoke of mixed people not identifying with one race but can with the other more… but that’s the difference. They are relating to the race that they actually are. She misrepresented herself. Fair enough if she didnt relate to her colour and you related to another. but the girl stated it herself.. every race has had a different experience. Her experience is not the one of a black woman but thats what she has implied
    She knew in every decision that she made how she was presenting herself to us.

    Yeah I get the whole racist thing. It is over rated now. People who use it as an excuse half the time haven’t even experienced it and also the people who mention it dont even the degree of what racial discrimination actually feels like. Alot of african americans for example talk about slavery yet know nothing of their actual roots lol. So I hear that but I think at the end of the day she knew she hadnt represented herself (Rach D) fair because otherwise i feel like she wouldnt have resigned because the backlash she was received is nothing compared to the importance of the cause and what she wanted to stand for. In fact in this very moment she is technically experiencing what she is out there fighting for all these years being in such an influential position.
    This past few weeks was her meant to be putting her words into action. Being the representative she applied for.

    All in all everyone has struggles. People overreact over the smallest things, it’s actually ridiculous about how closed minded society can be. I mean remember the story of the girl who was told she couldn’t get the job if she had braids in (they looked unclean or something), how exactly does that affect her ability to complete her job,really. Also, the controversy between G. Rancic and Zendaya, and can I just say the girl slaaaaayyyeeedd! Such a clear, concise and mature response. A lot of people can learn from her. Anyway think you get my point but all I’m saying is you can’t dictate how people should act, it should come in a way where their being//inner person is changed, their heart. To me I see that as your DNA, which is that determining your outward appearance (phenotype) hence how you perceive the world(and the differences that come in it) to be.

    • Georgia Chambers

      Thank you for your response.

      As you said, this is a really good discussion topic and I think it is something that people need to talk about.

      We talk about race all the time, so much so that all of our individual experiences tend to be related to race.

      Upon reading your response, I am in agreement with you- it isn’t about recognizing the differences but appreciating them. If we never get over constantly being in recognition of such differences, there will always be that division that separates the “us” and “them,” and that can be potentially dangerous, particularly in countries like America where there is already clear evidence of racial tension.

      I got sent a video recently by the #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl campaign, which stated that black people are incapable of being racist. They can be prejudice, but not racist. This is because, according to their explanation, racism is the combination of prejudice and power- and since blacks lack this kind of social power, it is impossible for them to be racist.

      Although this statement certainly made me think about what the term “racism” meant to me, I had to disagree. As someone that has experienced and been witness to racial discrimination on both sides, I cannot accept this to be true. Deliberately excluding or victimizing someone on the grounds of their race, in my personal definition, is racism- black or white.

      In terms of mixed race people associating with “their” race rather than black or white race, this is the problem. I personally feel that there is no mixed race “culture,” if you will, for me to identify with. Although I am content within myself, I increasingly feel that there is a choice of identity with either one or the other. There simply is no in between.

      Nonetheless, I think this is a very interesting discussion topic and brings up a lot of questions and debates. I’d love to hear of others thoughts on the topic.

      What is your experience of being mixed race? Do you feel you are limited to a black or white identity?
      What are your thoughts on the #HowItFeelsToBeABlackGirl campaign? Does it empower women or racially exclude and isolate them?
      Do you feel racial tensions are heightening in the UK and particularly America? How have our attitudes towards race changed (or not changed?)
      Does race matter? Do you feel there is a difference between racism and prejudice? Does the capability of racism apply to some races and not others?

      Thanks for all the shares, likes, comments- I really appreciate it.