Hey APC! My name is Karla Sterrett and I am a 16-year-old from New York.
You’re not black enough! You “talk white”! You’re an Oreo, white on the inside but black on the outside!
Hearing these comments from the age of 11 to 16 hurts. How am I supposed to respond to a comment so degrading? Words such as these make me feel powerless, tearing down my confidence, enlarging the insecurities I already have about myself. Being black is apart of who I am, so for another black person to say that I’m not “black enough” is worse than a slap in the face. It’s as if your own pride is being taken away.
I never really understood the comment of “talking white”. I would come home from school crying and tell my dad what the kids said at school. He said “Karla, they’re just jealous of you and how articulate you are and how proper you speak! Take it as a compliment !” I would respond by asking “But why does speaking clearly and articulately have to be associated with white people? Why don’t people see me for who I am and not for who the world perceives me as? Why can’t I just fit in, dad?” He didn’t know how to respond to a question so complex coming from an 11-year-old so he just hugged me tight and tried to lift my spirits.
You’re an Oreo they said, as they laughed right in front of my face. I stood there frozen. All I wanted to do was to curl into a ball and hide. Hide my identity, hide the greatness that I so badly wished to share with the world. I always described this feeling as if I’m screaming in a sinking boat as other boats pass by. I’m saying “I’m black! I’m truly black !” but no one acknowledges me or they just laughing at me as if I’m joke.
Not being “accepted” in the black community has greatly affected the relationships I’ve had with people, as well as impacted my identity. I still don’t understand why people don’t see me for what I truly am, but I’m no longer going to waste my time proving myself to others. I don’t need other people’s acceptance or validation. I’ve come to the point where I know what I am and the potential that I have. If other people can’t see that, then that’s a shame. This may sound cliche but I will continue to live and speak my truth, a courageous act that I was once afraid to do. But here I am, writing this piece, and being very vulnerable. Despite it all, I’m glad that I’m able to show the truth that I know not only me, but countless other black girls have faced and continue to face. We are not alone; I’m not alone. We will continue to fight together.