#IndySchoolGirlsofColor guest blog- Identifying as ALICIA, by Alicia Hodge

We are only 3 days away from our #indyschoolgirlsofcolor mentoring event, Girls of Color & The Women They Become: Looking at success through an independent school lens.
Have you registered?

We are super-charged by the recent guest blog series offered by our panelists, young women of color who’ve attended private independent schools. These incredible women will also lead our girls through authentic mentoring breakout sessions as they share best practices for emotional, social and academic success.
Today we are pleased to share Alicia Little Hodge’s blog… 

Alicia photo_opt
Identifying as ALICIA!
by Alicia Little Hodge

We are inundated daily with racial stereotypes in every aspect of our life, just turn on your TV. Being able to navigate as a minority member within the dominant culture can be a difficult feat.  When you don’t fit racial stereotypes it often elicits a strong response from individuals of all backgrounds. My favorite? “you act so white!” This is a phrase I have heard more than I could ever count. Growing up as a minority in predominately white educational institutions has exposed me to a culture very different than my own. These experiences have shaped who I am today and  have also exposed me to unsolicited feedback, both negative and positive.

I started attending private predominantly white institutions beginning in 4th grade. During those years I became aware from an early age of the expectations for my behavior based on being African American. Most of those expectations were negative, fitting the exaggerated stereotypes on TV. When looking at the development of racial identity there are different stages. More than likely at such a young age I subconsciously I strayed away from fulfilling those negative stereotypes. It is the same concept of military members wearing camouflage, there is no advantage to standing out when trying to survive or have your needs met. Going to school and being the only minority can be rough. Like those moments in the classroom when you are called on to speak for the entire black community! As my identity and my personal voice developed, I was able to assert myself and understand that I first am ALICIA, not a race. I am certainly grateful to have parents who kept me involved in my own community and often discussed race to gauge my experiences. But, there were some days I still felt alone when it was my “own people” accusing me of acting white. Most accusations of being white were related to me using proper grammar, style of dress, and/or music preferences. But overall, I thought I was just being myself…and in some way it was being communicated that I was inauthentic. I have to admit that there is a certain hurt in hearing that you are being a certain way, particularly that you are denying your race.

In my personal experience, the fact that I attended predominately white institutions, is often an automatic trigger for individuals to call me white, even if they don’t know me.  Granted, I am sure it has in many ways affected my demeanor and given me an ability to socialize amongst varying social crowds of differing classes and I don’t regret that. The last time I checked no one white ever mistook me for acting/being white! It is very possible that “you’re acting white” is a statement I may continue to hear throughout my lifetime. But, throughout this journey I have learned that I can be myself, and be proud to be black and still like the things that I like. There is nothing more freeing that realizing that you don’t have to leave the best parts of you at the door, regardless of what anyone thinks.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Gina Parker Collins
    Posted April 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Alicia. This rings very familiar as a mom of an #indyschoolgirlofcolor. To be authentic means to bring ALL of YOU! Thank you for not hiding any of yourself to please any one and letting ALICIA shine!

    • Alicia
      Posted April 10, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      It is bittersweet that your girls can relate. I am always glad to be transparent, especially when I know firsthand of the benefit it can have for others in similar positions!

  2. Elizabeth P Azerad
    Posted April 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Alicia,
    Thank you for sharing you experiences with us. Being a fair skinned Hispanic person, I’m often told I’m ‘too white…smart…educated…’ to be a Mexican-American. It’s a hard position to be in but your strong voice and identity, along with friends and family will support you toward your bright and successful future. Thanks again,
    Elizabeth Perez Azerad
    RIISE Multicultural Advisor

    • Alicia
      Posted April 10, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the reply Elizabeth! Its amazing how free people feel to impart inaccurate perceptions. I definitely agree that all those things you mentioned have kept me throughout my journey :)

  3. Miriam
    Posted April 10, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Thank you Alicia!!
    I went through the same thing. I even thought I “acted white”. It took a long time to learn that I acted like me, and that was more than Okay but great.

    • Alicia
      Posted April 10, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      Yes Miriam! Being yourself is great (and enough).

  4. Dorothy m. staley
    Posted April 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    What an excellent example of courage and transparency! I too have been “mocked” with the “your acting white” or “your disgracing your race. I laughed inside because of the ignorance of a people so inclined to pass down the same ignorance they were taught! What a surprise I’m sure it would be for them to learn they were not 100% anything! Bravo to you my sister for recognizing your strength as a person, not just a black person!

    • Alicia
      Posted April 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      Dee! I really appreciate you sharing your experience. Its amazing how people just replicate what they are taught without really questioning what they are actually doing. Thank you for your support sis.

  5. Crystal Y. Mays
    Posted April 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Alicia

    I really enjoyed reading your story. I have experienced it myself, but never really thought anything of it until it happened with my daughter. After being in England for 2 years and returning to our hometown in Mississippi, she was told (by our cousins and other neighborhood kids) that she talked funny and asked “why do you talk that way” or “what’s wrong with you?” She was really bothered by it because before then she didn’t think anything was wrong with her. We had to explain to her first what they meant (she had no clue) and second (and most importantly) that she should always be herself regardless of what others think of her (good or bad). When we place ourselves in a box (whether it be color, race, gender, culture, etc.,), we limit ourselves from experiencing everything that the world has to offer.

    • Alicia
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Crystal–
      Thank you for reading and commenting. It was something living in England for those years and not being exposed to life in the states (I know I had a culture shock when I moved back). I think it was great that you had open communication with her and affirmed that there was nothing wrong with her. Being ourselves is something very difficult, especially for women. I am glad that she has you to guide her along :)

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