I’ve grown up in a white upper-middle class neighborhood all my life. My family has always been the one of the only black families in my neighborhood. Ever since experiencing traumatic teasing and bullying due to having minor cerebral palsy and the death of my dad at the age of eight in second grade, I have always felt anxious in my day-to-day life. I was outgoing and extremely loud as a toddler but became shy after starting school at the age of four. I became a high-strung kid. School became a challenge socially. I rarely spoke in class because that would mean I’d be drawing attention to myself. I automatically experienced an anxiety attack at the very thought of speaking in front of large groups of people. I thought at a very early age that being quiet would ensure safety.
I was completely wrong. I have noticed that my classmates and society in general associates the term “introvert” with being anti-social, arrogant, mean, nervous, weak, and boring. I even once heard an outgoing classmate exclaim, “I don’t wanna be quiet because I don’t wanna be boring” after being asked to stop talking by a teacher. I assume because I am an introvert myself that I see being introverted to be the total opposite.
I don’t believe people expect a black girl to be quiet. Because I grew up being teased for my physical apparence and personality, I began thinking I was supposed to be a certain way and that there was something wrong with me.
I am shy but I have always had friends. My friends have always consisted of nonjudgmental white kids or a small handful of black girls that didn’t give me the side eye when seeing me in the hallway or gossip about me (I do believe that the hatred I endured correlates with my lighter toned skin or European features mixed with colorism within the black community).
Being a quiet, shy black girl has always been hard. People assume that you’re a bitch automatically. If you’re anything but extra friendly and talkative toward people, they automatically assume you “don’t like someone” or “you’re rude.” I have always felt that the same traits that are seen as cute in white girls or romanticized in films such as Twilight are seen as unattractive for a black girl. I’ve had to deal with insults coming from both black and white people. However, I have always felt even more insulted by my own people. My experience with black people has been that I am viewed as something weird, considering so many black people are bold and outgoing. If you don’t fit into that category, many black people will look at you like something is wrong with you; they’ll view you as stuck-up or not black enough. I have always been teased by my own people for being “different”. Not being accepted by my own people has been very painful.
I cannot speak for every single introvert, but I personally feel that we just approach life differently than extroverted people. I tend to be more of an observer of what’s around me or an internal thinker. We do talk, but we don’t engage in small talk but tend to engage in more meaningful conversations.
In the media, we as black women are stereotyped to be loud and full of attitude, accompanied by a larger-than-life personalities. I think the expectation for me to to be loud with a bold personality comes from that stereotype. The stereotypical black woman consists of rolling necks and short tempers. These stereotypes are displayed on reality shows such as Love & Hip Hop and Real Housewives of Atlanta. My personality type is the opposite of the loud, irreverent black woman stereotype. Many people would be shocked if they could listen to the conversations that I have with myself in my mind. I’m constantly asked questions like “Why don’t you talk?” and always hear “you’re so quiet.” I feel that people assume introverts are emotionless robots that need to be given a personality. People assume that being quiet or reserved automatically means you have no personality. Just because I don’t vocalize my opinions all the time doesn’t mean that I have none. I have my own opinions and personality; I just don’t feel the need to talk about them all the time.
Just because I am quiet and shy doesn’t mean that I am any less of a person or any less black.
I am an introverted black girl.