What makes you black?
I don’t have an introduction. I’m going straight to the point because this has been a question I have had to deal with all my life.
I do want to start by thanking Issa Rae though for her book “Awkward Black Girl” because it just shed light to a feeling I have been trying to hide and avoid while growing up.
First of all, to all the smart individuals out there, the first and most basic characteristic of a black person is....THEIR BLACK SKIN (Crazy right, who would have thought?). Indubitably, there are exceptions of people who don’t “look black”, but are black. No offense to my mixed individuals or other special cases. In other words, being black should be based on racial classification or ethnicity and not social behavior.
So, this is the moment where I’m addressing everyone who ever told me, “You act white.”, “Black people eat...”, “What? You don’t know....”, “I don’t know what type of black person you are.”, “You are not black enough.”, “A real black person would never....”, “A real black person always...”
First of all, there are times where I use the night time as my camouflage and I’m damn near invisible, so don’t question my blackness. I’m proudly a unique milk chocolate drop!
Second of all, I also want to apologize to anyone who I ever offended by telling them “you act black”, even though I still think of it as a compliment. What I was trying to say is that you openly embrace more than one cultures and that is pretty amazing of you. In no way, however, am I questioning or dishonoring the racial classification you belong to. Therefore, I don’t think it’s the same as the “you act white” issue, but I still want to apologize.
This “you act white or you are not black enough” movement needs to stop because it honestly creates an identity crisis to individuals and builds a feeling of not belonging. As humans, all we want to do is belong and be seen for whom we are and how we feel.
I lived in Greece, a predominantly white country, for 18 years. I was the only black person on basketball teams for years. So, when I went to America and was finally on a team that was 90% black, it literally made me feel out of place and lost when I heard, “Guuurl...you is not black!” or being laughed at for speaking “too proper”.
At the moment, I would think, “Damn, I guess I’m not black enough. I don’t like koolaid, I love fried chicken, but I just choose not to eat it, I don’t use the word “n****” or “sh*t” every 2 seconds, I don’t enjoy twerking on everyone’s dingaling, I like my hair red or bright colored, I’m into white guys....and the list goes on.” Of course that was back then...
When you are 18, in the US, you barely speak American English, your family is in Europe, your support system is low to non-existent, you don’t know anyone, you come from a place where you have faced poverty, racism, child abuse, and more...you adapt to your new environment or your version of “The American Dream”
I definitely use “n****”, “sh*t”, “f*ck”, “gonna”, “wanna”, “shoulda”, “coulda”, when I speak now and sometimes I ask myself if I really have three degrees because “sh*t” has became the synonym of every word I know.
After you have spent a long time in a location, assimilation is inevitable and happens unconsciously. However, I wondered to what degree I would have assimilated, if I knew what I know now and was as confident in who I was back then as I am confident in who I am right now.
If I could change one thing about this world, it would be our need and habit of judging the unknown or what we see, instead of learning more about it. If we were more patient and appreciative of each other’s differences, we would enjoy this thing we call life so much more. Less conflict, fewer or no acts of hate, no discrimination, and more love amongst us would be only some of the benefits of embracing each one’s uniqueness.
Respect black people we say, but we don’t respect, love and support ourselves. Instead we divide ourselves into categories; (light skin, dark skin, no skin and I don’t know what else people will come up with). Then of course, we talk ourselves down; “oh you got that good hair” - so there’s bad hair too? If so, let’s arrest it!
Once again, it starts with us. Let us treat each other the way we want other races to treat us. Until we love ourselves and embrace the uniqueness from one person to the other, we will be disrespected, mistreated and undervalued.
What does being black mean to you? How do you treat your fellow black woman or man?
P.S: This was written informally.
Special thanks to Nebula Photography for the first amazing picture and the unique session we had during my time in Lanzarote - Canary Islands, Spain. Also want to thank Ben Magnani for our rushed, but productive shoot in Richmond - Virginia, United States.