Not Black Enough

Disclaimer: get ready for this to get deep. I'm tired of being soft spoken because I'm a celebrity. I am who I am and I don't apologize often. So come on in and sit comfortably, because some of this will make you feel some type of way, indeed.


In the midst of a time of absolute crisis in our country I am thinking a lot about senseless hatred and how it becomes something so profound that it leads to the loss of life. Sounds insane, but it's becoming common place. We are becoming a culture dedicated to finding differences in others and making them pay for being different. There's hatred in sexuality, no matter what it is.  Hatred in race still exists in such a major way. Sexism is still a thing, look at any workplace where men and women co-exist. But the hatred itself, that's what's scary. 


I've been being hated for "not being black enough" since I was about 4 years old. Yes...I said NOT BEING BLACK ENOUGH. That's a thing in some areas of black culture. I was born with hazel green eyes. Not my fault...but it's seen as different and it attracts attention, and along with attention sometimes comes hate. The neighborhood I was born in was rough. When my parents first bought that house it was considered "up and coming". By the time I was born however, it had taken a turn for the worst. The public school was unacceptable, not to mention the fact that I couldn't play outside past a certain time. Gunshots were commonly heard at night. Hell, someone robbed us by breaking into MY bedroom window and stealing a child's piggy bank. Picture painted, it was rough.


My parents spent every last dime to send me and my older brother to a private school in a predominantly white neighborhood nearby. They wanted me to have a better education and safer learning environment than our  neighborhood offered. They didn't think about things like me and my brother being the only black kids in the entire school. The administrators of that school certainly didn't care that black children were joining the program. They were just good people helping kids learn. So they did what they thought was right. Little did they know, their efforts in educating their kids and exposing them to other cultures would result in them being targeted down the road.


I remember as early as 4, being teased for "talking proper". I didn't try to speak differently, I was being taught this at a young age. I decided I liked knowing the proper ways to speak, using new and intriguing words, and that doing those things in most environments was met with reward. Adults would comment on how smart and mature I was.  But in a few environments, it was looked down upon. I was accused of thinking I was better than others for saying yes, please and no, thank you. 


Now, one thing you'll never hear of, is someone being "too black". Quite frankly, I don't know how you would define something like that. What the hell are "levels of blackness"? There's no such thing as being "too black" in my ethnic community, so why is there "not black enough?" It's just silly. People are who they are. Certain uses of speech or articles of clothing shouldn't make you more or less black. The company you keep, the God you worship, the job you have shouldn't make you less black. My mother sometimes wears African wraps...because she likes the way they look and enjoys the nod to her heritage. Not because she wants to be more black. Is it just me or is all of this sounding crazier by the second? 


When I got into high school, I met more people like me (thank goodness) who were raised similarly, who understood what it was like to be treated differently because of how you spoke, or some of the company that you kept, or the hobbies you enjoyed. For instance, I was a figure skater. Not many black people skated, so it was instantly dubbed a "white sport". I was damn good at it and loved it, so I couldn't care less what people called it, I was going to do it and do it well and so that's what I did for 17 years. I knew a kid in high school who played soccer and golf, and was constantly teased over it and accused of wanting to be white. Why knock a guy for loving sports? Who was he hurting by kicking a ball around and swinging a club? You think that means he thinks he's better than you? You better pay closer attention.


I surrounded myself with a multicultural group back then, kind of like a "screw you" to people who didn't think we should be a melting pot. My best friends were Korean, Indian, Puerto Rican and white. I was the black one. And I felt empowered whenever I walked down the halls with any of those women. Race never mattered to us, but it sure got some people's underwear twisted up.


So here's where it gets really bad.  It's bad enough when you're black and people of your own heritage don't want to support and empower you in your differences, but it's even worse when people of OTHER cultures you've befriended start mocking you for who you are. This is a hot button topic for me. In a joking setting there's always one white person who will say "oh you know Brandi isn't black she's white like us".  


I'm sorry, am I like you? Because I figure skate? Cause you don't figure skate. Because I'm higher educated? Because the school you went to isn't rated nearly as highly as mine. Because I wear certain brands of clothing? Baby, maybe you're LIKE ME. My ideas are original. My style is unique and I don't have anyone else in mind when it comes to feeling like me. So maybe it's you who's trying to be somebody. I already know who I am...a damn unicorn. Uniquely awesome. Soul search yourself before you come at me for being me. And if you ever do say that to me? Escort your stupid ass out of my life permanently, trust me, you don't want me to show you the door.


NEWSFLASH: if you still feel skeptical about me and my roots, two things. 1) You're an idiot and don't deserve this but...2) I LOVE being black. I wouldn't want to be anything else. I love every gift God has given me. My heritage is a large portion of my make up and I couldn't be more proud of that. I also love that my husband and his family are white. I love watching our families blend together and love each other. It's the best thing to see. Awkward at times? Sure. But I would never trade it.  


My own personal experiences with hatred don't compare to the horrors that are taking place in this country right now. I just wanted to speak up and put focus on how easily hatred starts and grows. I wanted to say the words NOT BLACK ENOUGH outloud.  If this is something you find hate in your heart stemming from, say it to someone you respect. Tell them "I hate people who arent black enough" and if they don't respond by saying "uh...what?!" There's something wrong with them. Move on from them. Hatred stems from simply being different than a group. Having different religious, political, sexual, educational, leisure time views than someone else can lead us to where we are today. Judgement leads to hate, hate leads to horrific events. Just stop it. Stop hating people you don't know for no reason. It will consume your heart and once it has your heart it has your life. You only get one of those. Don't waste it by consuming yourself so heavily with hate for someone who's just different than you. 

The Dots

We talk a lot about current fashion trends but we don't talk much about my in-ring fashion and what it all means. When I first started wrestling my name was "Eden". I'm traditionally an over prepared person, so before I had my first match I had plenty of gear made and ready to go in the case I got called to wrestle on the fly. Back then, Dusty was one of the head trainers at FCW in Tampa. The creative direction for "Eden" was significantly similar to the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden. A temptress who listened to the serpent, eating and sharing the forbidden fruits with Adam, bringing paradise to an end. I'm a huge fan of the Biblical story, and I wanted snakes on my gear to represent that.  And that's the story! I continue to wear the gear because it was a cool idea, it's beautifully made, and it feels like me. No slight to any other companies I've worked for in past, just creativity that is part of the path to me continuing on this path in wrestling. Sorry, there isn't "juicy dirt". You can find plenty of that elsewhere! 


Now recently, I decided to mix my snakes with Dusty Rhodes' signature black and yellow polka dots. I was worried about doing this. Others have done tributes to my father in law and as well intended as they may have seemed, it's never really been well received, except when Stardust did at Wrestlemania. However, it was on my heart to do this for some time, and bearing the Rhodes name I figured I would take my chance and hope that it meant something. I knew it meant a lot to my husband and myself, that was going to have to be enough. 


I have never ever recieved so much positive energy towards anything I've ever worn in my entire life. Fashion is a passion of mine, for sure.  But the dots make people feel good. They make people remember. They start conversations and encourage fans to tell me their favorite Dusty stories and moments. It's really surreal and it helps people come together and enjoy themselves that much more. That said, don't worry, the dots aren't going away. I will definitely bring them back from time to time to help people feel good and to remember. Also, I feel like I should state this because, well hell, somebody's got to. Just because I'm black, doesn't make me in polka dots a Sapphire reference.  She was amazing and I enjoyed her and Dusty immensely. But Cody and I are never trying to be this. Cody is Dusty's son and I never had the pleasure of meeting sweet Sapphire. I would consider it disrespectful to her family to try and "represent" her.  That's their right and their lineage, certainly not mine. 


Side note, last night I had the pleasure of meeting Tully Blanchard for the first time. I was wearing my dots and I got the chance to tell him how awesome the roll of quarters match was with him and Dusty, as I had literally watched it just the night before. That had little to do with fashion, it was just a very cool moment.