It’s Not The Same Anymore

Akande writes about her experience navigating her identity as a young Black woman in a predominantly white area.

Madison Gonzales

Akande writes about her experience navigating her identity as a young Black woman in a predominantly white area.

By Sarah Akande, Mansfield Legacy High School

African booty scratcher. Why do you talk white? You’re pretty for a dark skin girl. Is that your real hair? 

Every microaggression chips away at my mental stability and builds racial trauma that plagues my mind. I always rethought the way I talked around certain people. The way I dressed. I tried so hard to step away from a stereotype that I ended up distorting my true identity. It exhausted me, but it pushed me to understand the truth about myself.

To most people, I was in “The Sunken Place” but to myself, I just wanted to fit in. My desperation to appear as anything other than the token Black friend consumed my mind to the point where I altered myself to blend in perfectly with those around me. It felt like my one true mission at the time. 

I wanted nothing but acceptance. I wanted to belong. I’d scroll through my Instagram feed and see Black friend groups, and I knew deep down I wanted that, but I convinced myself that it would never happen. I told myself I adapted to white spaces because America as a whole represented a white space, so I pushed back each nagging thought that told me I suppressed my personality and essence as a Black girl. 

Now, I understand. I understand that Black people are not a monolith, so my blackness should not be reduced because I do or do not speak a certain way. The darkness and deepness of my skin do not decide my beauty. I do not need to explain my hair – whether I have braids in or a wig installed or weave sewn in or faux locs.

I did not care if I was the loudest person in the room anymore. I no longer silenced myself in an attempt to run away from The Sapphire Caricature. I learned to express myself without code-switching every other second. I speak how I want to when I want to. Of course, this journey of self-discovery led to a change in my friends, lifestyle and choices, but I no longer hide behind the mask that hid the personality of who I wanted to become.  

The Sunken Place not only grabbed me, but it pulled me down into a hole that I never felt getting deeper. At a point, I reached the bottom but realized it left me with no way out. I pulled everything I subdued in myself and used them as stepping stones to guide me out of such a harmful place. I often hear that every person of color goes through that phase, but I genuinely hope no one feels the confusion, hurt and pain that it takes to get out of there. 

I see that Black is beautiful. I want every other person who questions that to see it too. We adapt to the environment we find ourselves in, but that adaptation should never lead to the loss of self-image or cause an identity crisis.

This story was originally published on The Rider on February 23, 2021.