30, Germantown, Md.
Most hated stereotype:
That speaking properly is considered talking white.
On the outside, teenage Rose was caramel complexioned, had thick, kinky hair and a curvy frame.
A self-proclaimed “token,” she often found herself surrounded by white grade school classmates, fellow cheerleaders and volleyball teammates, often the only brown face in a crowd. There were other black girls in her suburban Maryland middle and high schools, but rarely was there a connection that lead to friendship since their external appearances were the only point of commonality between them.
“It was hard at times. It felt kind of isolating in a way,” Rose said. “And I felt like I was missing an experience to relate to people that were like me and faced the same challenges I did.”
And the differences she found in her white friends regarding common teenage girl issues, like hair, body shape and pigmentation (they liked to tan, she had no need) left her feeling left out.
Black, but not black enough. Too black to really relate to, and feel at home with, her non-black friends. It’s a strange middle ground, a sometimes isolating landscape dotted with bullies and attacks on her self-esteem.
But don’t think of Rose as the stereotypical “token,” teaching her non-black friends about black culture.
“People automatically assume that because I’m black that I like things that relate to all black culture, like hip-hop or rap or black comedy/jokes,” she said. “I like those things, but I’m not limited to that music only. I like all music from country to pop. And no I don’t think every joke that relates to a black person is funny. I have my own thoughts and opinions, thank you very much.”
She believes growing up in that environment defines the person she is today, contributing to her ability to quickly relate to anyone, something she considers a strength. Bubbly and hardworking, many find themselves drawn to Rose in a personal and professional setting. While in college, she was able to make friends that weren’t limited to the stereotype boundaries through her multicultural sorority.
Today, the 30-year-old health communications professional still finds herself playing the token role at times, but it doesn’t bother her. Friends will encourage her to listen to the latest country album or hit the floor for line dancing, but often find a reason to decline an invitation to experience something she’s interested in.
“Some people just don’t get it and not because they don’t want to,” she reasons. “At our age, they’ve kind of settled into what they’re used to and if they haven’t been exposed to new things when they were younger, I guess they’re less likely to want to experience new things as they get older.”
Regardless, Rose values her friendships. It’s those friends, and her dog, Diesel Beefy el Diablo ChiChi Hooks, that keep her sane between work and finishing graduate school, leading to her overall goals of owning her own health/fitness industry and event planning business – token or not.
If you started a nonprofit, what cause/issue would you want to benefit? Why?
I would focus on building self-esteem for young girls. I had very little self-esteem when I grew up. I account this to a lot of bullying as I grew up. The world can be a hostile place and I truly believe that it takes a village to raise a strong woman in this generation.
What is one thing you’d want the world to know about you?
I’m shy, especially around the male counterparts; what you see is not what you get. To know me, spend time with me to get the full picture.