Questioning Our Blackness
To be a Black man or woman in America is to be many things.
On top of obvious discrimination and biases against us, we are constantly being labeled – by the media, by non-African Americans and by society itself.
Society constantly seeks to define us and create stereotypes based on actions they cannot comprehend, as a means to justify the way we are often treated in society. But unfortunately, we in the Black community put labels on ourselves as well. We’re constantly limiting ourselves to what society has resigned us to, hesitating to break the mold that has persisted so long, and for good reason. Because the truth of the matter is that so often in the general Black community we act as if someone Black, who doesn’t behave in a way that’s conventionally Black or do things that aren’t conventionally Black, that it makes them less Black than someone else who is by typical standards.
Take the scenario as an example: A Black child who has gone to predominantly White schools their whole life, suddenly gets transferred to an all-Black school. The child is told by other peers their age that they “talk White” and they get made fun of, even though it was just the way they were raised. This scenario is common and it conveys a certain theme. If you’re not conventionally Black, it’s hard to fit in within your own race. Even as people grow older, the idea still persists and those who aren’t acting in a certain way aren’t taken seriously and called whitewashed and “boujee.”
But unlike those who are not African American, who judge our race either because they don’t understand or out of hatred, we as a race have no excuse for this because we all understand one another to a certain extent. Individual lives might differ, but the overall experience and feelings of being a Black man or woman in America is something we all understand, and is one of the reasons the Black community is as strong and supportive as it is.
This incredibly strong sense of unity from one to another is what makes us so impactful as a community and even fearsome to some. And it is that unity that should be protected. And it is in defense of this unity that it’s simply not worth it to set limits on what constitutes as “Black” for us.
To diminish someone’s Blackness simply because they don’t speak the way other Black people do, calling the way they talk “White”, or to call someone stuck up because they don’t eat the same foods as you, not only rude, but is counterproductive to us both as a race and as a culture.
We have to realize that someone doing things that aren’t conventionally Black, such as dating outside their race, is not the equivalent to renouncing our culture. Because there are many Black people in America who can’t dance, who are vegan, who don’t like to use Ebonics, and who dislike R&B, and none of those things make that person more or less Black, because being Black isn’t something that’s quantifiable. It’s a state of being.
If you are a Black man or woman, then everything you do in your life is inherently Black, and as a race we should seek to welcome all Black people regardless of their preferences or lifestyles, and realize that our race will only continue to evolve and be influenced by the world around us, eventually making us even greater as a community.