During my first semester at Towson University I experienced two drastically different situations involving my race. I had a very strong will to succeed while at college and that led me to constantly participate during classroom discussions. One night, while in a dorm room talking with two female black students, one of the girls recognized my voice and asked if I was in her Mass Comm class. The class had stadium seating and therefore she never actually got a chance to put a face to a voice. When I responded yes, she replied, “I thought you were white.”
As much as that comment bothered me, it only made me reflect on an incident that occurred just a few weeks prior, while out at a bar next to campus. A fight between a few white kids erupted and my friends and I were pushed into the ruckus. One of the kids involved in the fight yelled out to me, “Fuck you nigger.” Pissed, I chased him down and one of his friends pleaded with me not to beat him up. He suggested I be a bigger man and that I just leave him alone even though he was the instigator.
Though these situations were completely different they made me think, what exactly is sounding white? If it actually exists, is it a bad thing? Does “sounding” white make me less black? What is “blackness” and who defines it? Then I wondered what would make someone just call me a “nigger,” especially when they’ve never meet me. Does my color infuriate them so much that the first thought that comes to mind is nigger?
Why do we always define others based on race? As I ask this question I realize I just want to be me; but separating my race from myself isn’t always possible. I realize my race not only plays a significant role in my life but also a role in my insecurities as a black man. When you see someone or hear their voice for the first time, what are your immediate thoughts? Are they fair assessments?