In the socialcircles I travel in school, I always find myself "The Token Black Guy."I thought of this term for my role after a TV commercial got me thinking aboutthe unbelievably small number of black students at my school. It is something Ihave always turned a blind eye to.
I've never really been bothered aboutbeing the only black friend most of my friends have. But at times, it leads me tosome stressful conclusions. I realize that I, in a way, represent the entireblack community to them, as they get to know me, and see my strengths andweaknesses. It is one of the things that keeps me motivated. Perhaps I wantpeople to see only the best in us, or perhaps it is something deeper.
Ihave never had problems with people because they were white. There have been,however, those who've had problems with me because I'm black. Sometimes, it'svery subtle: because I am black, I must listen to rap music, play basketball oruse a lot of slang. In truth, my parents make fun of me for using a lot of bigwords, I'm terrible at sports, and usually listen to classical music.
Other times, however, it is more overt. People come up to me using slang andgestures typical of urban African-American youth, and expect me to reciprocate.It's gone so far as for white kids to think they can use the "n" wordaround me. This does more than make me angry, it makes me question myidentity.
Modern culture, especially that perpetuated on MTV, has givenmany suburban white kids the idea that they are oppressed by some business-likearistocracy. That may be true in a way, but in another, it is puzzling that thereaction has been for many middle-class Caucasian youth to adopt black culture astheir own. And as far as media perception of black people, I really don't fitthat mold. I am very in touch with my culture, heritage and race. And I take agreat deal of pride in it. But because I don't fit the stereotype that even whitekids are now trying to emulate, it sometimes puts me at odds with my ownperception of my race. This conflict has left me with doubts, but I find myselfreturning to a cliché: just be yourself.
I realize that being blackwill always give judgmental people an immediate idea of who I am, which can't behelped. People are more comfortable when things and people fit into molds. On theupside, I think I've grown enough as a person to be able to deal with it. Itmakes me try not to judge people, which is something I'm getting better at everyday.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.