Assimilation

      I am an example of the assimilated American Negro. I am generally none threatening . I am generally none offensive ,and  non-intrusive  African American . My hair is usually straight and    my style is usually of the time , non-ethnic and with little to no “urban outfitting’s” . My speech is without so called “Ebonics” when speaking to those outside my close circle of friends , and when it is it is generally used as irony. When the usually eloquent Brie  says something like “wif” instead of with or “I’m is” , a word cluster that is in fact a pet peeve of mine , you know she is kidding .

I was never meant to be anything other than assimilated . Despite my background , family beginning and surroundings my mother set out to have a child that would easily fit into what she saw as America’s larger culture , that of the Caucasian American . She deviated from that in only one respect , my name . Her original choice of Olivia  was replaced with Libra by my godmother  whom she was going to name me after . With that single exception , I was meant to blend . My language and diction was closely guarded , I was made to “ask” for things and not “axe” for them like other little ones. I was likewise made to “ will not” or “cannot “ and was never allowed to “ ain’t” a  swat on the fanny or a slap on the mouth let me know that was unacceptable . so I emerged at 5 years old when I was unceremoniously ripped from my cloistered predominantly  white community in Seattle to the black community of Inkster , Michigan I was the little black girl that “ talked proper” , that “ sounded white” or on one very memorable occasion when I  who “ Talk like a honky” , pardon my use of the pejorative .

What does this do ? I  simply do not fit anywhere . I was always aware that I am different than my peers . My way of speech is often seen as pompous by other black people . I am more comfortable around white people but I am nonetheless aware that I am different from they .My attraction to and for white men , while more widely received and accepted now than before ,  puts me again in the role of outsider.  Growing up I wanted to be white . My mother’s influence as well , as she still expresses that desire .  So I deal daily with a double edged shame factor . I am ashamed  that I care what other people feel about my marriage to a white man . I am ashamed that I am proud that he is white and often DO want people to see him . Not because of who he is but because of what it conveys . Barack Obama said it best in “ Audacity of Hope” when speaking of his mother and I’m  paraphrasing “ I realized at some point  I would bring her up to people to gain their acceptance . To make myself a part of that larger world , which I was using her to be seen as something else” .That is often how I feel like I am saying in essence , “ I am not one of them” .

So what ultimately does that mean ? Nothing .  It took me years to realize this but assimilation is unavoidable to some degree and it comes at a cost  . To NOT assimilate also comes at a cost . I am Brie Stoll , Oreo . I am also a makeup Diva and a Nerd Goddess . I am not defined by that one aspect of who I am . I have learned pride in being African American . I have learned pride in being an American American as well . I did find my way and I can only look at the ride as it was the ride that I had to take .

At 21 years old my mother saw white culture as having opportunities and possibilities that black culture , in her seeing , did not have in 1975 . I cannot fault her for that and my way of speaking has afforded me many things . She was right about that . Being able to speak  in proper terms and real words does make a difference upon short acquaintance . I am seen as more intelligent simply because of that one thing . I have to , in fact , thank my mother for that .  I believe that my way of speaking lead to my wanting  to be more intelligent .  I do not believe that I would be where I am today , a writer , a student , a friend to all types of people , if not for my assimilation . It did make me want to be  accepted by white society at first but later it just made me able to know and understand anyone that is intelligent and interesting . I am not cloistered or self-cloistered  within my own race. I am not afraid of white people , black people , Muslims , or Jews .  In fact I have befriended  them all . I am happy to be me but I am not stuck  with it . I am not saying this is what assimilation means for everyone .  It is what it means for me .

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