This mental inflexibility points to a seldom discussed but nonetheless very frustrating aspect of being African American: well-intentioned people will insist you are a victim whether you interpret your life in such a way or not. Even in the most rarified financial, intellectual and cultural spaces, to experience yourself as something other than a person set upon is at odds with the assumptions people of all colors project.
An example of the way we are expected to speak about ourselves, even in positions of privilege, is found in the 2011 documentary “Allowed to Attend,” which followed several students of color at the elite Manhattan prep school Trinity. In one scene, a girl laments that she is “unable to feel pretty” when the standard of beauty around her — white, skinny, tall — is something she can never attain.
“It’s hard for me to get a guy to pay attention to me in a predominantly white school,” she confides, “because I’m black, and that’s miserable.”
Although the statement was confusing — what does it mean to say that blackness is incompatible with being slender or tall? — it’s so familiar as to go unchallenged, passing for basic common sense.