Measuring Blackness

Where I grew up in Arizona, there were almost no Black people, and I'm half Black. So coming here, I actually thought there were a lot of black people, which sounds ridiculous, I'm sure, to other black students at Notre Dame. But I just grew up in a really whitewashed place. We had a lot of Hispanic people. And we had a lot of Native Americans, but mostly white people, no other people of color. So it was interesting in that way, but also like isolating, in regards to my family. And, you know, being the first black person from my family going here.

So yeah, like I said, I'm half Black. And I'm definitely more white presenting for all people listening, just to get an idea, which I definitely think in a way saves me from discrimination. But also, one thing I noticed when I got to Notre Dame, and I noticed this throughout my life growing up, but I didn't have much to compare myself to growing up. One thing I noticed when I got to Notre Dame was that people would almost discriminate against me for my lack of Blackness. So that was something I felt a lot. And I definitely in no way receive the same type of or the same amount of discrimination as other, blacker looking people or, not white passing people. But I definitely think I have discrimination in a different way, just because I feel like I don't always fit into a box.

I think, unfortunately, for a big part of my life my racial identity wasn't a part of me at all. Just because like I said, I grew up in such a white place. And all you’re trying to do is like fit in at that point. And I have older sisters, who are my half-sisters, so they're fully white, they always had their hair dyed blonde. And if I think about my race and growing up, literally, all I can remember is just wishing I looked like them and wishing I was blonde and wishing I was white. And it wasn't even like wishing I was blonde, because that's something obviously I could do. But in my head, I was like, “Oh, I look so stupid, because my skin is dark. Like I wouldn't look as good as them”. So I always had a problem with my race going up. So unfortunately, I just forgot about that as much as possible when it came to identifying myself. And I have all these thoughts about me, about how I couldn't be pretty; that was such a big part of me growing up, was that I was so different from everybody and I didn't feel like I could ever be pretty to anyone which shouldn't matter. But unfortunately, when you're a little girl, it's pretty important.

But definitely, a lot of people have showed microaggressions towards me over how Black I am. Very few Black people do here. Almost all Black people say, “Oh, I knew you were half Black. I don't understand why people don't think that.” But once I had somebody blatantly argue out loud in class. Me and this girl were both half Black. And we made that clear. We were talking about it ourselves together. And someone overheard, and he was like, “Oh, she's way more Blacker than you. Madison looks like she's from a whole other country,” in class where everybody could hear. And I felt like that just summarized how I feel people see me here, which is really frustrating, because I don't know why that matters to anyone. And it doesn't change what I've felt or experienced, and it doesn't change my family's history, or what we've experienced from our Black culture, like, my culture runs just as deep. And it shouldn't be measured like that by students who don't even have anything to do with it.

Madison Chambers

Madison Chambers is a sophomore at Notre Dame from Scottsdale, Arizona, studying neuroscience and behavior and global affairs.