Am I Black Enough?

12 Mar

I didn’t listen to Tupac growing up, I’ve never seen any of the Friday movies, and I can’t twerk.

Only a priest at Confession could get me to admit all of that. I was ashamed to say so in fear that my “Authentic Black Girl Card” would be revoked.

The other day I picked up Patricia Collins’ Black Sexual Politics.* She explains how mass media “blurs the lines between fact and fiction” on the image of Black people, and because of that, some representations of Black people have become commonsense “truths,” when really they are all stereotypes created by sources outside of our communities.

Sadly, we adopt these stereotypes and hold one another to them. We are expected to “act Black,” and we ostracize those who do not.

At young ages, Black children who are raised in Black communities learn what it means to be “authentically” Black. I picked up on in the 3rd grade. By that time, I’d learned to speak a certain way, pronouncing or not pronouncing certain syllables.

I often felt the need to hide my social class –so I avoided telling people that I was from Ladera Heights (a wealthy Black neighborhood in LA) because in elementary school, being from Inglewood was more acceptable.

In middle school I learned to dance how Black girls are expected to dance: bent over in front of a guy, moving my ass on his crotch to the beat. I was never good at it. But imagine my joy when I realized I could Crip-walk. I thought to myself, “Yes! Evidence that proves I’m really Black!

But despite all my attempts, I was still labeled whitewashed—and I still am (you know it’s bad when your Korean friends say it).

The “problem” is: I don’t fit the stereotype of what the media says a Black woman should be. The societal definition of what it means to be Black (which is dangerously similar to the racist19th Century beliefs of colonial powers) is how some of us define ourselves.

And those definitions are damaging. For example, Collins tells us, “Black men in pursuit of booty calls may appear to be more authentically ‘Black’ than men who study, and the experiences of poor and working class Black men may be established as being more authentically Black than those of the middle-and upper-middle class African American men” (Collins 151).

So I’m not going to define myself by racist standards of what it means to be Black—because you can’t be genuine if others are still defining who you are.

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8 Responses to “Am I Black Enough?”

  1. http://www.soccercleatssalecanada.com/ April 17, 2013 at 8:28 PM #

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I抣l be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

    Like

    • awomynsworth April 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM #

      Thank you! You’re comment made me smile today. I will continue to post on things I think are interesting and relevant. I’ll start posting again in May after I finish my semester. I appreciate you’re feedback.

      Like

  2. Michael Kors Online April 8, 2013 at 3:11 AM #

    This info is invaluable. Where can I find out more?

    Like

    • awomynsworth April 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM #

      I was inspired too write this post after reading parts of Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Sexual Politics. Its really interesting. I’d suggest starting there.

      Like

  3. TyLa March 14, 2013 at 2:42 PM #

    Preach! I’ve been called “white girl” from the time I hit elementary school. I’ve been told, I talk white and act white. To this day, people I went to high school with, still call me “white girl”. I am 27. Only ignorant people say things like you’re “whitewashed” and that you act/talk white. I speak proper English, and I take pride in how I act and dress. Those actions should only dictate the type of person I am. It doesn’t mean I’m trying to emulate any other race. I wish people would stop assuming that all people of a particular race is supposed to act and speak a certain way. It’s really unfortunate that people continue to stereotype and they have proof that their wrong. For instance, your Korean friend who called you whitewash. You should be proof to her/him that not all black people act/talk the same. I don’t think this issue can be solely blamed on the media either. While there are a lot of negative examples of black women in the media, there’s also several positive examples, eg. Michelle Obama, Robin Roberts, Oprah. However, people choose to ignore it. They’d rather continue being ignorant… I can go on and on about this topic, but I think I’ve said enough. lol! Great post! It’s definitely inspired me to write one about this topic.

    PS: Accepting yourself is one of the best things you can do in life!

    Like

    • awomynsworth March 19, 2013 at 4:08 PM #

      Thanks! I hope you do continue to write on this topic. It’s what a lot of people need to hear.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Your Top Posts of 2013…Did You Miss Any? | A Womyn's Worth - December 30, 2013

    […] Am I Black Enough? “The ‘problem’ is: I don’t fit the stereotype of what the media says a Black woman should be. The societal definition of what it means to be Black (which is dangerously similar to the racist 19th Century beliefs of colonial powers) is how some of us define ourselves… […]

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  2. 9 Totally Appropriate Responses to “You Don’t Act/Sound Black” | A Womyn's Worth - December 13, 2013

    […] I’ve been put on the stand to prove my “blackness” countless times, you’d think I’d be quick to tongue-lash anyone who went there with me. […]

    Like

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