In todays society the disconnect between races is less prominent. However, when and how will we reach a stage of equality.
In personal experience I find myself and many others similar to me being the target of terms such as “coconut” or “white washed”. And those comments can be very grating. It poses the question of ‘can you act a race’. In many high power as well as creative industries you will find the pioneers to be white. It comes as no shock as POC (people of colour) don’t always long for those type of careers especially untraditional roles such as media or fashion and art.
Growing up as a black person in a predominantly white area. I personally developed similar talking habits, interests and traits as my white counterparts which made me feel included and seen. Once I spoke I would leave people in shock as I didn’t have the ‘roigh abf ready’ vernacular which was expected from someone who looks like me.
I do not have enough fingers to count the times I’ve been referred to as ‘too white’ or ‘white on the inside’. But with the way I have grown up I never felt a disconnect to my white counterparts. Instead, I viewed us both to be on the same level of the playing field. However, as I’ve aged and become more culturally aware i realise that being “ white washed” has played an advantage in my life. More opportunities and conversations have been open to me as I “fit in” with those of the opposite colour. And unlike many other young black males, I don’t tend play into the stereotype. In a world where stereotyping happens in the first 15 seconds of first time interactions it’s important to be seen as you are rather than an assumption of how you should be.
When it comes to breaking the walls and making space for POC in careers which they are not often seen in those who are “white washed are more likely to be accepted as you are a more palatable candidate. You walk talk and live similar to them so you won’t increase “discomforts” (micro aggressions) in the workplace. In comparison to those who are a bit more “hood” by nature.
Growing up with parents in respectable careers who were always well presented and direct family members who were the same as well as not having many friends who were people of colour. I wasn’t aware of the fact there were other black people who fit this stereotype until I was older and in my mid teenage years. I then felt a gap between myself and those of my race and culture, on the inside that manifested an insecurity of not wanting to be seen as less than. So I improved my speech and made the conscious effort to be well presented when I left the house to be seen more in proximity to ‘whiteness’ than the stereotypical ‘blackness’.
To draw back to the title, for the most part you do in fact need to drop your “hood”. Whether that’s your vernacular, mannerisms, style to see your dreams in a ‘white man world’. However, anyones dreams can be achieved in your own world. People should make their own spaces to flourish and should not shame those who live in a stereotype as they can not control their upbringing and culture. Also we should not shame those who are “white washed” as they also cannot help the way they were introduced to society. And some of those ‘coconuts’ are leading the way into making more space for people of colour in predominantly white industries and changing the scene to a more diverse and equal playing field.
It is more than unnecessary to view people as ‘a diversity mark’ or the necessary ‘BAME candidate’ to be used as a poster of “inclusion” instead take into account that these people are equally willing and equally working as their counterparts whether they pronounce their T’s or not.