You might be black, you just ain’t black enough!
How could one not be black “enough” for black people in Florida? After spending countless years perfecting my Trinidadian accent, mastered the trials and tribulations of primary school, passed the dreaded common entrance for a good secondary school, I got back to the United States and now I am not black enough to be considered black in the state of Florida! In all my life, I had never considered race, I was born into a family of all shades, why would how you look ever be an issue for me? Yes I was teased in Trinidad, but that had nothing to do with who I was as a black child, more that I was an outsider, a Yankee. But in Florida, I had to question what it meant to be black and face the reality that despite my deep brown shade of skin, I was somehow not black enough!
I was unaware that being black had everything to do with how you spoke, where you lived, who your friends were. But this is the very lesson that I had to learn moving to Spring Hill Florida. Not sure my parents knew anything about his area, or even this state. I am certain we may have had a flight connection through Miami once or twice, but we never visited, had no family here, and I have no clue why this became a decision for our next home. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave, and I think had I not been in California when the coup began, I could have convinced someone to let me stay and finish school. I had finally felt like I was finding a place with my studies. Teachers who were engaging and didn’t treat me any differently from the other students, encouraged my skills and talents. I was actively involved with dance and modeling, had traveled across the islands and even visited Tobago more than once, had a circle of cousins and friends that I enjoyed, and was no longer in that “weird” preteen phase. I had actually started to look like a girl, still a tomboy, but now I began to care about my appearance and after a few glances in the mirror, I realized I was in fact cute!
I had to start from zero, in a state that seemed to have the same weather and waves of an island, but lived by what I would come to understand as “Jim Crow ” southern mentality. The landscape itself is storied, trees that speak of past lynchiings, small homes on acres of land that is unspoiled, confederate flags decorating the back of pickup trucks, lines drawn on who lives where, whites using the word nigger interchangeably with anyone with mixed blood and tight curls. Blacks who turned their noses at my sing-song tone, and perfect diction, unruly hair that waved, and a face that one might give a second glance. Always asked if I was “mixed” and why I “talked white”.
This was my introduction to Florida, and life in the South as a black girl born in California, raised in Trinidad, confused about her new forced identity.
Much love from the brown girl, sharing short stories for Blogtober! Keep writing, even if no one is reading ❤️