There's a little story I'd like to tell, about a little mixed Girl you may not know so well. I'd like take a few minutes so sit right there and I'll tell you how I became the Goth with kinky hair.
Quite often I get asked, "what nationality are you?" I am, in no way offended by this question. Like a lot of Tim Burton's art, I am simply Black and White. More specifically, I am an African Jew. On the outside, I am a rambunctious Goth. Inside, I am a powerful witch. All of this makes me who I am. And the Michelle you see before you, didn't come to be very easily. It took extraordinary bravery and mountains of pain that all came from resistance. Each time I accepted myself for who I was, I set myself free and my life became easier each time. You read that right, each time. Because with my story, self acceptance took multiple attempts.
Growing up, I was unfortunately ashamed and angry for being mixed. I felt like I wasn't even the right kind of mixed girl. I didn't have pretty hair or a pretty complexion. The standard for mixed girls ended with the beauty of Halle Berry. I had all the kink that didn't grow and obvious freckles and really bad teeth. I was told I was black. So, the music I listened to was too white and I didn't have enough black friends. When I had too many black friends, I was told I needed more white and hispanic friends. When I was about ten, while watching MTV, my Mom commented, "you're going to marry a white man." I didn't know what she meant because she's white....These confusing and ever changing expectations and low self esteem led me to become very angry and also curious for things outside of the black and white lines that my family and peers defined me by.
Needless to say, I questioned everything. I took risks and I often got in more trouble than anything. I didn't recognize the person I had become trying to be the typical black girl in Pomona, CA. I believe my peers saw right through it and used my racial insecurities to use against me or to manipulate me. I became the hoe, the bad student, the wannabe black girl who sucked at basketball and just tried too hard in general to be something I was not. But, the alternative wouldn't have been any easier to deal with. I started to hate the blackness in me. I started to resent black people in general. All, I got was shit for not being black enough despite my efforts. I needed a fresh start.
Thankfully, I am smart so it was easy to pass the application process necessary to get in IPoly High School. With a graduating class of 98 (in 1998 no less) I found myself amongst, definition diversity. It was here were I discovered the Goth Aesthetic. It was here where it was acceptable to be whomever the fuck you were without judgment. I was able to wear all black and dog collars and listen to Bauhuas and Pantera and Ice Cube if I wanted to. IPoly and the students gave me hope and so much knowledge that fell outside of color lines. I was still angry with black people though. I made sure they knew it too when, I recited a speech I wrote myself and in front of over 400 Cal Poly students and my peers. I volunteered to read it as it was Black History Month and I had something to say. I was mad at them for judging me so harshly after all the African American's that had fought and died for us during slavery and the Civil Rights movement. I was mad at them for calling each other "Nigga" and self segregating. My plan of attack backfired though. You can imagine my surprise when I was met with a standing ovation from the predominantly African American audience. It seems I wasn't alone and that there was nothing wrong with me after all.
With my nipples pierced and fourteen holed Doc Martens I descended further into the Goth darkness and annoyed the fuck out of my family. They had to endure my endless questions as to "WHY SHOULD I BE LIKE YOU?" "WHO WROTE THE FUCKING BIBLE? A BUNCH OF MEN! "WHY DO I HAVE TO BE DEFINED BY THE COLOR OF MY SKIN OR HEAVY MAKEUP?" Instead of the peers harassing me about my lack of blackness it became my family. Well into my mid-twenties I could be found prowling Hollywood Goth clubs like Das Bunker, The Dungeon and Bar Sinister. I felt at home at these places but, unfortunately, I still felt alone in my blackness. A lone black goth. But, I was ok. I was accepted in these environments. I even tried my hand in the punk scene too and even had beers with skin heads. It made no sense but, they were kind to me. And it made me question why I got so much shit from black folks. Up until that point, I endured more racism from black folks than I did white. I wish I could have asked D.H. Pelgro and Bad Brains if they endured any grief from their black family and friends.
I got used to white folks being more accepting of me. Too comfortable though. I found myself drifting away from myself again as I started having more and more kids. My life became theirs and I wasn't sure if raising them Goth, free from religion and such was how to raise them. Remember, I was in suburbia. Success was defined how accepted you are in your communities. I thought it was important to blend in even though I had so many red flags. I'll say it over and over again, goth parents of today, YOU HAVE IT MADE! No where could I find a onsie with images of Robert Smith on them or docs for a toddler. No, I reverted back to thinking more about how I was going to make my parents proud by being a great parent myself. I wanted to be the best Mom I could be so I read all the wrong material and even got involved in a church. While my immediate family was happy with that version of Michelle, nothing was going right in life again. Not for me. And apparently not for my kids as they revealed to me later and accepted my apologies for putting them through that. I thank the bravery of my second son for showing me that while my intentions were all good, I was trying to mold them to be acceptable members of society (a society that fails us over and over again) instead of embracing who they truly are. A lesson I was not taught but, ended up learning on my own before. After all, well behaved humans never make history. Despite the color of their skin.
Breaking out of the trance once more I not only accepted my inner witch and Gothic lifestyle but, also be a proud black woman. For the first time in my life, I felt strong enough to stand up to comfortable white folks in the community I live in. I stood up and spoke out against black injustice when I felt compelled. All without forcing myself to like Beyonce's music. (I still don't see what the big deal is) Following my intuition mostly, it doesn't take a genius to know when you're faced with racism. I endured comments from my Husbands's closest family members calling me a "nigger" and "if your Father knew you were with a black woman, he'd turn over in his grave." On the flip, my closest family member have made ignorant comments about my lack of blackness to accusing me of raising my children without culture. The same ones who find homosexuality sinful and have bragged about praying the gay out of their extended family members. They have openly made it known the struggles of the LGBTQ community could never compare to the struggles of Black people. I have even been asked if anyone dresses like me when I go to Halloween Conventions. Recently, I'm not sure he was joking or not, but another family member was so concerned that I am a devil worshipper that he offered to hold an intervention so that I don't go out and shoot up a mall. Apparently, it's shocking when an African American is different from the norm. Like, you're a "sell out"! You can't be Black if you're a Goth witch who loves horror, Halloween and not involved in organized religion. And I am the one with no culture? Thankfully, I do have a large family with many diverse qualities and a few of them have always been supportive and accepting of my weirdness in all of its phases.
I have been the happiest and most powerful in these moments of acceptance. Not being bound by the pressure to be otherwise just because my color doesn't match my interests, fashion choices, music tastes, economic status and mental illness. Isn't judgement of all of these things a form of discrimination? I don't believe its ok to be African American and racist. It's not ok to be racist at all.
I have seen more and more African American Goths like me coming out their coffins. Black, Black Sheeps. But, thats even the wrong description. We're not sheep at all! We are fucking wolves. I've shared moments with beautiful black goths on the dance floor at Bar Sinister. I have bared witness to incredible artists like the Rap Punk Band @ho99or and the tantalizing Alli from the No Wave Band @specialinterest Seeing her on stage belting "Young, Gifted Black in Leather" was such a breath of fresh air! I have befriended other African American Goths and while we share so many common interests as it is, we still believe that being black IS beautiful even if we don't conform to the mainstream African American image. I am grateful for TV shows like "Blackish" and "Mixed Ish" and @traceeelissross in general for she highlights the beauty of being dorky and mixed and black and beautiful. Upon acceptance of my blackness, I feel strong enough to fight against racism and speak out against injustice and misogyny. Once accepting myself for I am, I have been the most confident I have ever been. Instead of getting angry and trying to plead my case, I have put up boundaries with those who question, judge and ridicule me and those who I spend the majority of my time with. Damn it! It's freeing! There are real battles and African American injustices to fight against and I truly believe that if we accept our own individual talents and interests, no matter how weird and embarrassing they may seem to your family, then we can truly rise above what separates us.
Stay tuned for you're about to hear more from other African American Goths!