In my daily cruising of blogs, I was struck by a blog I read about Soledad O’Brien and the issue of Blackness. Soledad is hosting a two part program on CNN that I have not yet seen on being Black in America and guess some folks questioned whether Soledad was really Black enough to be a part of such a discussion. For starters I will admit that I didn’t even know she was Black, over the years I thought she looked like she might be Black but with that name honestly, I never gave it a second thought.
However in the larger picture, reading about her Blackness or lack thereof brought me back to my own childhood and how often I endured cutting remarks from family members on my supposed lack of Blackness. As I have talked about before, I attended predominantly white schools even when we lived in Black areas, I was the kid in high school who had to get up at 5:30 am to trek across Chicago to get to school by 8 am. In my early years, we did though live in a predominantly white area.
For starters, as a kid, I was the kid who couldn’t jump rope, not just any rope, double-dutch, that definitely earned me lots of laughs as a kid.. later on I was put down because I talked white, I read books, and the worse offense in the eyes of relatives, I listened to white music. Back in fourth grade, I bought my first albums, Duran Duran and The Police and yes these were indeed albums. LOL
Later on growing up I grew to embrace all kinds of music, yet despite my love of music, I have been told I cannot dance. How many family gatherings did I attempt to let loose only to hear the family “Look at S, she dance like a white girl”.. laughs all around.
It wasn’t until in the past 10 years I realized I wasn’t the only Black kid who grew up being cracked on because of my supposed lack of Blackness as a kid, yet even when we become adults if you were a member of the non-black enough crew growing up, you still get it from adults. Its never ending, but the reality is what the hell is Blackness?
Honestly I beleive much of what we in America call Blackness makes no sense, to say that a group that has millions and millions of members must all do the same thing is group-think on a crazy level. What I consider the Black experience in America is a rich diverse array of experience. It shapes us individually and creates Black folks as diverse as John McWhorter, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Even factoring for socio-economics, we are as diverse as white folks. No one ever expects white folks to be all the same.
Yet for many of us Black folks if we see someone engaging in behavior that we associate with White America we are quick to slap a label on that individual and heaven forbid we might even call said not real Black person an Oreo. Yep, been there, done that too. Thankfully I have reached the age where it no longer irritates me that family members think I am an Oreo, I suspect my move to Maine solidified in their minds that I am a true Oreo.. oddly enough these same folks like many who are quick to judge who is really Black, no nothing about Black history.
Blackness as I define it is a state of mind, its the ability for me to take pride in my roots, its when I reached that place where I can proudly share about my humble family roots, the grandfather who was a sharecropper. Its that place where as a Black woman I can look upon my own natural attributes and be at peace with how I was created, I see joy in my nappy hair, my full lips and hips and cocoa complexion. Its the place where I want to embrace all members of the diaspora, where I understand that the Dominican brothas and sistas are the same as me.. we all hail from the same place, we just ended up at different places.
No, Blackness can not simply be reduced to a few points, Blackness is not necessarily growing up in the hood, Blackness allows for the richness that gives us the Soledad’s who choose to embrace her heritage because she understands that Blackness is more than skin color. I like to say its in our blood, we feel its strength, its the strength that allowed a people who had been taken away from their homes to create in this new and strange land that was forced upon us. I sometimes think that if the ancestors could see this silliness that many of us engage in that they would cry out in shame at what we have become.
Instead of deciding who is Black, let us make sure we understand who we are first and foremost.