The Sistah Vegan Project

(How I fail at being black enough) Top 5 Reasons Why I burn in the sun within 7 minutes.

Pointing at my burned scabbing nose…blackness card revoked!

Seriously, what the hell?

Did my forehead just start peeling after basking in the North Berkeley sun for a mere 7 minutes?

What is the purpose of my brown skin’s melanin? I mean, “black don’t crack,” right? (Well, I think they probably mean that black folk aren’t supposed to show signs of aging, even if they’re like 105 years old)…. But maybe it means I am not supposed to crack and peel after being in the sun for 7 minutes during a 67 F day?

My mom used to joke all the time, while I was in high school, how I would not have made a ‘good’ field slave, on account that I simply couldn’t handle the sun. (Yes people, this is a joke).

So, it’s now that I must ruminate over whether or not I should be allowed to be called “black”; should my blackness card be revoked? If it takes me less than 10 minutes to burn in the sun when it’s only 67 F degrees and only 100 feet above sea level, with 35% humidity, then something has gone terribly wrong with my blackness. Over the past week, I have realized that despite having brown skin, my “cultural whiteness” has trumped my physiology.

(“Cultural whiteness”? Bare with me here….)

You know, “cultural whiteness”. I’m referring to when some stupid motherf*cker, usually a black person who thinks they are the epitome of “blackness” calls you an “Oreo” because you aren’t doing what black people are supposed to be doing. “Oreo” means you’re doing something that white folk normally do (and I guess that is by default, anti-blackness (?)). So, yesterday, I compiled a list of the top five things I have been doing, since I can remember, that have probably led me to burn in the sun, regardless of my golden brown skin tone that spray-on-tan queen Kim Kardashian would kill for.

(1) I did not attend an HBCU.(For you white folk who are like ‘huh?’, an HBCU is a historically black college or university. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what an “HBCU” was for months, upon hearing it when I was younger. Instead of asking a bonafide black person what it mean, I spent hours theorizing what that acronym could mean.)

Yup, I “sold out” and I attended Dartmouth College in the early nineties. I didn’t apply to any HBCUs (not because they were HBCUs but more because I wanted to stay in New England). I was excited about having being accepted into Smith College as well and was bummed that they didn’t offer enough financial aid for me to attend. Same with Tufts University. Loved it but it was too expensive and they didn’t offer enough. But Dartmouth did. You have to understand Dartmouth of the 90s. Uber conservative, heteronormative, dynastic elite white male privilege was what the campus climate was known for. I am pretty sure that this deeply damaged my melanin. I also developed the “sweet-itis”, which meant I was prefacing everything with “sweet!” I went from a regular Oreo to an Oreo Double Stuff!

(2) I stopped eating the ‘gospel bird’.

Yup, years ago I decided to transition into veganism. I shocked all my card carrying “I’m a bonafide black person” friends and family when I declared that I would no longer eat and poop out chicken (okay, I didn’t talk about what would be coming out of my butt… but butt hole jokes are just plain funny, in a junior high humor sort of way).  I also said ‘no’ to pork-rinds and also ‘no’ to being hip and cool like so many black folk I know who enjoy bragging about how many deep fried dead animals they overdosed on at a family bbq, and then excuse themselves to go take their high blood pressure medicine and insulin for their diabetes (which is apparently a true ‘marker’ of “I am black.” Well, at least that is what the medical reports of today talk about. You know, since a true black person doesn’t know how to eat ‘right’, is ‘obese’, and needs to be ‘educated’, usually by a white girl from the mid-west who is on a ‘mission’ to bring them ‘good’ food for her college internship).  My black folk also seemed rather fine about sitting out at family BBQs all day in the hot sun without even burning, cracking and peeling, so it must have been something in the gospel bird!

(3) I married a white dude.

And not just any ‘white’ dude but one of those European white dudes who is from Germany and has a doctoral degree in astrophysics. I knew I had made a mistake in performing my proper blackness when, upon hearing about my new financé, my grandmother made the comment, “I don’t know why she’s got to go and marry that white boy.” And it’s not like I got that “reminder” too late in life. I remember my Aunt who shall remain nameless (there are 5 of them so I am not giving it away) , telling my twin brother and I in high school that it was okay to date “them” but not to marry “them.” Had I taken heed earlier and found a true card carrying black man to marry, perhaps I would have reinvigorated my melanin and not burned in the sun in a rapid 9 minutes… even with SPF 30 on and a damn hat.

(4) My twin brother and I obsessed over and memorized all the songs to the musical The Sound of Music , starting in the sixth grade.

I sh*t you not. He and I spent hours and hours bouncing up and down, doing our own renditions of “Do, a deer, a female deer. Re, a drop of golden sun.” We borrowed that VHS cassette from the Lebanon Town library a gazillion times. Or, if it were re-running on television, we’d be all excited about it. However, my twin does not burn in the sun. I think it’s because while we were in college, he wouldn’t admit that he liked or even knew the lyrics to that The Sound of Music, while I still proudly claimed that I did. He also listened to Sam Cook, John Coltrane, James Brown, DMX, and all the “how to be black and know your music” hits of the past century that I was clueless about because I was still obsessesing over my musicals, European classical music, and would quiver whenever I would hear a rap or hip hop song use the word “nigga” (which I later learned shouldn’t be confused with ‘nigger’) or “bitch”. I remember joining an a cappella group with all brown and black girls (and one token white girl named Stephanie) in college. They were excited about a new song we’d be doing. Our leader told us we’d be singing a New Edition song. I kept on asking, “A new edition of what!?” They laughed at me; one girl went up to me and tried to see if I had painted my brown arms by rubbing them, to verify if I was in fact a real black person. Amazingly, my brown skin did start smudging off… weird, no? The following week, The Fugees cames to perform on campus and I kept on asking everyone, “What are the FUDGEES?” Yup, like a fudge-sicle…. go me, I’m so down…

(5) I had a mad crush on David Hasselhoff.

I’m not talking about David Hasselhoff during his Knight Rider days but more like his Bay Watch Days….Psych your mind! I’m just messing with you, I didn’t really have a crush on him (whistling to myself, eye averting to the ceiling).
So, today I am handing in my blackness card as I sit here with aloe on my burned and peeling nose, scratching away at my tender shoulders. I am not sure what new card I should be carrying…. but I am hoping this is a temporary situation, as I’ve paid $99.99 for a webinar to learn how to reclaim my blackness and put my melanin back into harmony again.
(Yea, I know people aren’t used to me being funny. So, in case you didn’t realize it, this was me joking around. It’s a fun twist on responding to the questions I have gotten from white folk: “Wait, black people can tan? Black people can burn?” and from bonafide black folk, “Are you a white girl dipped in chocolate or something?”)

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21 thoughts on “(How I fail at being black enough) Top 5 Reasons Why I burn in the sun within 7 minutes.

  1. Ummm yeah.. as someone who cannot double dutch or cornrow.. I am sooo here with you…

    • I cannot cornrow either. My mother tried to teach me and to this day, I cannot. I can do mini-french braids when I try to do ‘cornrows’ in my hair. My mother said she doesn’t know how to do french braids. Some how I flipped around the pattern and my brain cannot figure how how to turn it from French braids to cornrows…. Blackness card revoked!!!!

      And yea, my mama can double dutch. Hey, what did my parents expect? I was raised in an all white rural working class New England town. LOL

      • Ya know :D Life is funny.. I wonder if there are any parallels between what we are experiencing and what 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants experience..Besides I have a feeling there are many more of us non cornrowing, non double dutching black women who married white men than we think..

    • edamamí on said:

      yes, soulfulindustry, there are many parallels between your experiences and that of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants! both of my parents are immigrants who came over here as adults. my brother and i are the first to be born in the states and oooohhhh what a problem it is that our spanish isn’t flawless. compound that crime with the fact that i’m a vegan and i married a white man – latina card officially revoked! but wait, my crimes go from misdemeanor to felony because i’m an afro-latina (yes, hispanic people come in shades darker than jlo and eva l&m) – so i get it from both sides!!! african american people see my skin color and hair texture and assume that i’m african american as well and not black (yup, there’s a difference. hence the term “black identified” – which includes everyone). so i’m a disappoint on both fronts – so far removed from what the media depicts as the black and brown cultures that i am just an abomination, lol. …and you can only imagine the shock and horror when i started using the vegan manic panic hair dyes to color my hair in a punk fashion (damn near qualified me as a terrorist). good bye black card and adios latina card, you’ll be sorely missed *sniffle* ;)

  2. Jeannine on said:

    You are not alone. I sent you a message via FB about my recent trip to Zion and Bryce in Utah in response to your posting. I am also married interracially w/kids and have been accused of the same. Just keep it real and authentic – live your life.

  3. Paula on said:

    Hey Lady, I am African American and vegan. The point here that folks fail to realize is that we are made of flesh and bone. Regardless of color, meat will cook in the sun. Our skin, any skin will burn in the sun. And another point, Its about exposure, you grew up in predominately white culture and so did I. Now I don’t like Mr Hasslehof because he is a bit corny to me but I can relate. I grew in Nashville, so I know and enjoy a few country songs but I still love soul music and I love my black culture. However, because of my exposure to other cultures including the white culture, I have a board spectrum of friends and view of the world and that is great skill to have.

    • Yup Paula. At the very end I actually wrote in parens that this was more of a response to the stupidity of “certain” melanin deficient folk who always are astounded that I not only tan but burn! LOL…

      The post is an exaggeration of how I grew up and the whole Oreo stereotype, but I know that I love so many cultures, not just ‘black’ culture (and what is that specifically, anyway?). My mom loved Motown and my father loved European classical music, so I listened to both.

      • Paula on said:

        Sending love your way Ms. Breeze, I have recently purchased your book from Amazon because I saw your videos on Youtube. I use Youtube to keep motivated in my Vegan Journey and to learn from others. You have certainly drawn connections to issues that I have not connected the dots to before. Those connections have strengthen my vegan journey. For me becoming a raw vegan has changed my life in every way .. physically, socially and spiritually and love it. Thanks so much for the work you are doing my sister.

        Peace!

        Paula

  4. This is hilarious Breeze! I can relate in some ways too. I’m sure my blackness card could be revoked as well. I also burn if I get too much sun(which is actually rare up here in far,far northern California), married a white man, and love “white” music in addition to “black”.

  5. I love this, and encourage you to try wider publication.
    I was never a sun-baby, always feeling as if I am burning in direct so My naturopath insists that I use sun block. She says “we” a have as great chance of burning as anyone. Don’t remember why.

    Since moving to Florida, 2006, I’ve developed dark spots and moles on the left side, from driving home–sun on that side.

  6. Ummm……I do not know where to start! lol! Agree, agree, agree with it all (execept I am dating a caribbean-african american male). The funny thing is for myself is that since my love of culture is showing more (ie: family is finally paying somewhat attention) I am now seen as too radical or afrocentric, nevermind that I have always been in love with learning and studying other cultures and people.

    but still, to reiterate everyone here, you are not alone and thank you for your energies and sharing your experiences and thoughts!

    Peace and Blessings!

    • Atiyah on said:

      I can also relate to much of what was said, especially the part on braiding, lol. I thought I was the only black woman who ‘French braids’! My brain can’t ‘flip the cornrows’ either. As for tanning, my brother is dark complexioned and so is my stepson & they both burn with peeling skin and all. So, indeed black skin can & does burn. Thanks Breeze, though I’m not vegan yet, I’m transitioning. I am also overweight, dark skinned, and Southern__and I happen to agree with much of your insight on sociopolitico & health. Thank you & Congrats on returning to school.

  7. I had to laugh at this one cause I’m African American grew up in black neighborhoods yet my friends were white, asian and latino and african. I was raised in a black afro centric household Malcom X, Richard Wright etc….. but in junior and high school I hung around non blacks because(black students) they weren’t aware of who they really were, I was already natural yet my black classmates riduculed me, told me I talked white and acted white but yet Malcom X was my hero. I listen to classical music as well as soul music. Black kids always questioned my background cause I had so called good hair, however I felt I was ahead of my time since the school I attended was manily white, the black students were always fighting yet I remained passive and was denied my black card. I didn’t qualify as black enough because I talk proper and carried myself with dignity I was always proud of my culture and once I became aware of Afro culture I learned to appreciate others as well.. till this day I support cross culture relationships By the way when I was told about my hair I would look dumfounded cause I look very much like an african but whats funny is when I mention my Native american background black folks laugh at me and say oh you just black.. how about that? But yet when I talk I’m not black enough…..

    • Sadly, you’ve had a typical experience, while being unique. I can identify–except for the hair. My physician father told my sister and me, when we came home crying because our racial cohorts teased us for being “nigger rich,” and worse, “Crabs in a barrel, always pull everyone else down.”

      Be strong, Be YOU.

  8. Oh and by the way next to the Star Wars Trilogies The Sound of Music is my favorite musical of all time! So long fair well.. to you and you and you! Sixteen going on seventeen……

  9. I know what you mean! I’m black (with light skin, so brown? idk). I went to a football game with my mom, and my arms and face were RED. I was walking around my dorm later in a tank top and everyone was SHOCKED that I could burn (and also lots of sympathy, that burn looked waaay worse than it felt). I also am ovo-lacto vegetarian, can’t do cornrows, my SO is white (no kids yet), I am super geeky (my dad’s fault). I was actually bullied all the way up until I started high school for being “not black enough” my sister got a lot of the same.

    • Lyn, The geeky and “not being black enough,” related to skin color and geeky has always been with us. I remember a woman, 1950s, masking s derogatory remark about my aunt for the same things. My aunt was born in 1904. My Dad dismissed the bullying–that’s what it is– by telling the “crabs in a barrel story. Check my novels at amazon.com, Envy is SO envious. Ignorance is the pits. See gyfortune.com

  10. monica on said:

    your skin is flawless. is the vegan diet your secret? or do you take any supplements to help?

    • Thanks. I have a diet high in eseential fatty acids, like chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, walnuts. Drink nettles tea every day. Shea nut butter. Inka and castor oil on my face. And I get sun every day.

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