As we all begin to embark on the start of a new month, everyone across the country finds new ways to celebrate a month long remembrance of black culture excellence that got its start in 1964. Here at MU both the Black Culture Center and the MU Student Unions host various events that try to inform and promote conversations about Black culture and history.
One of the events that caught my eye was a panel titled "Am I Black Enough?" This kickoff event, that was hosted by the Campus Activities Programming Board, was a student-led discussion on navigating your Blackness while at MU and in everyday life. The name alone of the panel reminded me of an inner struggle I've had for a while. A struggle I know is prevalent in so many other young black people of today.
Navigating blackness is a personalized experience for each and every person, however so many people try to generalize the entire thing. We as a community have created a "norm" for what it means to be Black and the moment you fall outside of that box you begin to question yourself. For me I began to fear that I was becoming white-washed; a term used to describe a minority who has assimilated with Western culture. This derogatory term has been thrown around in the Black community causing so many other "weird" black people to feel like something was off. Am I Black enough?
Growing up in the Carson/Compton,Calif. area has put me in an area with so many others who look just like me. While I was so appreciative to be surrounded by black excellence, I found myself on the outskirts. I couldn't catch all those jokes, consume the same media, or even if I did I wouldn't enjoy it the way everyone else did. My peers picked up on this quickly and made it seem as if something was off. It felt as though my black card was slowly being stripped away the more and more I decided to just be myself. That feeling of not fitting in with your peers is always a feeling young people struggle with. But it is so different when it comes to not fitting in with your own race.
I've come accustomed to knowing that I'm not part of that norm of what it means to black. It becomes an internal struggle that keeps me and so many other people like me to wonder if they way they choose to express their blackness is enough or even acceptable. What even is that norm? That is something hard to pin point and tends to differ in each state, even in each neighborhood.
I feel like if we had this discussion a few years ago the answer would be a lot different. Before we had figures like Tyler, the Creator, Rico Nasty, Lil Uzi Vert, Janelle Monet and many other black artists who now represent another form of Blackness we rarely ever discussed. While there is no true definition of blackness or what exactly it means to be black, it is known that these artists for a while weren't representing the mainstream idea. Those "outcasts" of yesterday are the new trendsetters today.
More than ever before, it's becoming a new thing to be different, something I am so proud to be apart of and I think only would have taken place in this generation. The question of blackness is no simple topic to tackle. It's so complex and will always be a topic of discussion among black people because the state of our culture is up for discussion. Overall, the way I see blackness and how to navigate it is up to the beholder. Being black is enough. There shouldn't have to be any other social hoops we have to jump through in order to prove to other black people that we're black enough. It is stressful enough just being black today, let's not make it anymore difficult by putting these social pressures and policing on each other.