Blackness — a word used to describe a personal emotionally bonding experience that involves
a sociological and economical identity, pertaining only to black Americans, that is associated with modern society.
So why is it that so many people want to chime in on what makes me more or less "black?"
I grew up attending a predominately white, private, Christian school in Macon, Georgia, and given that fact, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a great education. Throughout my years in both middle and high school, however, I was constantly hit with the phrase "Well you aren't like other black people: you act white."
At a young age, I wondered what this meant, but I ended up accepting it as a compliment because every time anyone said it to me, their tone was happy and seemed like a sign of approval on their end. I thought, "Wow, I'm being accepted, so that's all that matters I guess."
I was wrong, and as I grew older, these comments only increased, and I began to find myself getting frustrated.
I wasn't a cute middle schooler, but when high school came around, I began to get hit with the, "You're pretty for a black girl" or, "You're the prettiest black girl I've ever seen."
Academically, I excelled, and because of that people equated my success in the classroom to how black I was. People made comments about me being smart for a black girl, and that's when I had enough. Why is it that other people thought they could chime in on what made me black?
Could black girls not be in all Honors and AP classes?
Why was it "You're pretty for a black girl" instead of "You're such a pretty girl"?
Black people ARE STILL PEOPLE, so why is it that people, and white people especially, feel the need to tell me how black I am? The color of my skin does not define how smart I can or can't be. It doesn't say I can't be pretty like the other white kids. It doesn't say how well-spoken I can or can't be. Why is my "blackness" being compared to your "whiteness?"
Even in college, I've experienced the same things, but surprisingly from other people in the black community.
I remember one day, another black girl told me that I don't have "real" black people hair.
Mind you, I am not mixed. Both of my parents are African American, however, my hair is naturally very curly leading people to believe that I am mixed with another ethnicity. I'm sure other women of color have experienced this same type of criticism, and quite frankly it's extremely unfair.
For me to not even be mixed with anything else and to be judged on my blackness solely because of my hair type is outlandish to me. But imagine the people who are mixed. Imagine the things other women of color along with white people say about them. They, too, are often and even more judged for how black they are or aren't.
The fact of the matter is, no one should be able to chime in on my blackness let alone anyone else's. I not only identify myself with being black but I am extremely proud to be. To my mixed sisters and brothers out there, don't let other people tell you how black you are either.
For the people out there who equate blackness with the inability to be in a stable household, ghetto-ness, saggy pants, being illiterate, etc, you are not only ignorant, but you are racist.
These microaggressions that you throw out at us act as a new form of oppression, and I will no longer tolerate it. To my black sisters and brothers, don't let anyone equate your blackness with how successful you can be. We can't let people degrade us simply because they don't understand all we have to offer. To be black is to be beautiful/handsome and strong. Our blackness is something we should always be proud of, so don't let anyone tell you differently.
Image Credit: Photo by Eric Hart for LOVE HART