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“I’m not a typical black girl.”

I’ve read quite a few Facebook posts that start off this way and I now cringe when I see another because I know exactly what’s about to happen. At least in my favorite group, the thread flows pretty predictably. First, she will reminisce about growing up in the suburbs, which many of us have. She will go on to say how much she loves metal, or anime, or reading as further proof of her otherness, then at least ten people will comment on how they also like metal or anime or reading. She’ll go on to say how she never believed in god and just about everyone in this particular group will say, “duh.” After all this fails, she’ll go into how being different makes her unattractive and not attracted to most black guys, so she had to finally find acceptance with her awesome white guy. The poster will inevitably get skewered for thinking she’s better than everyone else, everyone who is equally as different as she proclaims to be.

In all honesty, I’ve had similar feelings most of my life. I prided myself on being different, into non-typical things, able to go from group to group and always find some common ground. I never felt as though I was better than anyone else, but I certainly felt different. Friends and family amplified this feeling by telling me I was different. Sometimes they meant it in a nice way, many times they did not.

I no longer wish to be called different, and here’s why:

In the past year, I have met some amazing people online and in person. Since embracing my freethinking sensibilities, I have learned there is no right way to be a black woman, or a human being for that matter. When I see women refer to themselves as different or not-typical, there is usually an undercurrent of being better attached, even when it isn’t explicitly stated. “Don’t treat me like those hood rats, I’m not like them.”

The thing is, we are like them. We are here, on this earth, doing the very best we know how to do with what we have. I know many don’t believe that. In this age of respectability politics, many of us find it easy to look down on those who seem as though they aren’t even trying. There are so many opportunities to make it, why haven’t they done better?

I can’t answer that without a lengthy treatise on psychology, institutional racism, environmental factors and economics. It’s extremely hard for me to believe a majority of black women wake up every day and say, “how pathetic can I be today? How can I be an embarrassment to my race and gender by feeding into every negative stereotype imaginable? I need a lifestyle that screams “hood rat!””

No. My sisters and I fight similar battles daily. We want peace, we want love, we want respect and we want our children to grow up healthy, strong and safe. We really are in this together, so I won’t exalt myself over my sisters. We are all individuals, yes, but ultimately we are all in this together.