My name is Shannon and I’m Black. I have always known I am Black. My family and friends know I’m Black. At times there has confusion because I’m a fair-skinned Black woman. The confusion is usually with Latin men, who speak Spanish to me and I politely respond, “no hablo espanol.” Then they take a closer look at me, smile and move on. This has happened numerous times and is a regular occurrence in certain neighborhoods and countries. It was not until I began acting a few months ago that I even considered using this misidentification to my advantage.
I began putting my acting resume together and shared it with a fellow actor. She suggested, along with my actual race, I list the other ethnicities I can also play. It took me a minute to figure out exactly what she meant. I decided to stay true to myself and list only “African-American.” I am a Black woman and I want to play roles that are either Black or not-ethnically based. Much to my chagrin, it seems Hollywood has something different in mind.
I recently saw an advertisement looking for a “racially ambiguous” woman. What in the world? Who the heck is “racially ambiguous?” It hit me like a ton of bricks, I’m racially ambiguous…at least to some people. When Black folks see me, they see a sista; when Latinos see me, they see a senorita and I know I confuse the heck out of a lot of white folks. I can’t tell you the number of times a white person has asked, “What are you?
So, I revised my resume to read, “Ethnicity: Black (can play Hispanic, Middle Eastern or North African).” Has the pendulum swung so far that we are non-racial?
I may work as multi-ethnic, bi-racial or mixed, but I won’t live that way. It took me years to get over my hang-ups about being a fair-skinned, hiyella, redbone, light-bright Black woman. I am proud to be a Black woman, and while there is probably some white, American Indian and other in my ancestry, when I look in the mirror, I know who I am and I am wonderful.
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