Caught in the middle, but standing on the outside

Noelle Pennyman

Can a person simply be him or herself without fitting into a category of stereotypes?

It seems that in order to be a part of America’s so-called diverse society, people have to first identify with a group. The most important of these groups is race.

If people are interracial, lighter or darker than the typical skin tone of their racial groups, they face more scrutiny because they don’t look like most of the members of a certain ethnicity.

The message constantly thrown at people is they must declare a racial group to live in this world. Unless, of course, their racial comrades don’t accept them.

Non-acceptance by an ethnicity creates the problem of being inadequate or not meeting the standards. Certain people may not be “black enough” or “white enough,” depending on their lifestyle.

As a light-skinned person who identifies herself as a black person, there’s a feeling of being caught in-between. I’m not black enough for my black friends, and I’m not white enough for my white friends. So where do I fit in?

Up until my third year in college, I was always questioned because of my appearance. Am I black, white, Latino or interracial? Once people knew my race, they still saw a need to comprehend this racial wonder. To many, I didn’t talk black or act black, so what was I?

To add to the mystery, I found white guys attractive and enjoyed “white music.” So it appeared that I didn’t fit the profile of a typical black person and, therefore, didn’t deserve to call myself black.

When a person is caught in-between, he or she has to bear the burdens of both sides of the fence.

For me, I have to deal with all the ignorant questions many na’ve white people ask. “Why do you do your hair that way?”; “Why do you talk like that?”; “Why do you like to date white guys?”

Someone actually told me that my race was the only reason I went to Kent State on scholarships, when in reality, I maintained a 3.5 GPA in high school. She also told me I didn’t act or talk black-as if she were the authority on how to “act” black.

On the other end, I have to deal with the alienation of many black people. Before I start a controversy, let me clarify. I do have black friends, but there have been instances when I was not accepted because I wasn’t “black enough.”

Could it be those particular individuals? It’s possible, but a person has to wonder if he or she is truly accepted by the race that person identifies him or herself with.

One would think that on a campus built on diversity, a person would be free from stereotypes.

The beauty of being a part of America today is that people should feel free to be who they are, despite the color of their skin and their background. In college especially, a person can reinvent him or herself and should be able to do so without ignorance or prejudice.

Noelle Pennyman is a junior public relations major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].