I’ve got to say growing up in the suburbs of Virginia Beach hits a little different when you’re considered “White washed” black woman. What does that word even mean? Urban dictionary describes whitewashed as a derogatory term used to describe a minority who has assimilated with western society. It can be used as a compliment or an insult. In my case it was ALWAYS used as an insult. One I was tired of hearing. I had no clue what it meant until it was used to describe myself in highschool. Just because I dressed presentable to school everyday, did cheer/gymnastics, oh and here’s a new one…because of the way I talked. I only dressed up for school because I was taught that you never know who you might run into so always look presentable. My mom taught me that of course, and I did cheer and gymnastics because I was good at it, and I also enjoyed it not for others’ approval. Now onto the way I talked. I didn’t know that talking properly and using correct grammar made me “whitewashed”. It was already hard enough that I was in high school trying to maneuver my way through this big world and find myself. It was even harder when the term whitewashed gave me a major identity crisis. I just wanted to be me. As a society we try so hard to put labels on everyone instead of just letting people be themselves, because in today’s society the typical “black girl” talked ghetto and wore Jordan shoes to school and got in trouble a lot, meaning detention or getting into fights that just wasnt me.
Now what does the word “ghetto” even mean? The word originally was created and used to describe the segregation that was happening with the Jews in the early 16th century. It then later on became a word that signified racial segregation throught time, but how does one word from the 16th century turn into a term that describes a certain stereotype? A stereotype that was me.
A little backstory in my highschool career I attended 2 different schools due to me having to move states and live with a host family for cheer. One school was a diverse but still predominantly white institution and the other was a predominantly black school. Somehow, someway I was STILL considered white washed at the predominantly black school. That left me confused and very much lost. I didn’t know where I would fit in, and It’s no secret that society loves to put us in these little boxes. That leaves me with the question, Where do I fit in all of this? I just wanted to exist in a space where I was allowed to be me and not get judged for it. A space that I thought was supposed to be highschool but I guess not. Which left me struggling to pick the perfect college for me too. Do I go to a HBCU and get “in touch” with my blackness, or do I go to a PWI where I would most likely fit it for the way I act but stand out due to my skin color.
I say all of this to bring awareness to two topics. First, PLEASE stop using the term white washed. It’s belittling and doesn’t make us or me as a black woman in America feel like our blackness is validated. Second, If you’re white don’t EVER use the term ghetto. Now you might be thinking “I would never say anything like that”. You would be surprised how many say it with so much confidence. Recently I had my very own manager who is white might I add use the term ghetto in the workplace to describe the way one of my black friends talked, so trust me when I say it happens. The term “ghetto” is so loosely thrown around these days and it needs to stop. As a black woman in America who also attends a PWI, I just want to exist and maneuver my way in this world on my terms and only my terms. Not on anyone else’s where they think its ok to label me.