I had to have a conversation with one of my children about blackness. If you don’t know, black parents need to have many discussions about blackness because, as black children grow older, they start to realize that they are not quite like the others.
They take more pictures,
navigate differently than their peers,
and often, their skin color becomes more evident.
Just then, something is said about anon-black person that makes it clear that there is a difference between black and non-black. It is so commonly stated that people don’t realize what it actually means. However, it has become a common saying for both blacks and non-blacks alike. It is something that even I had said as a youth. The quote:
“…that kid thinks he is black.”
To understand the issue with this statement, we have to question what people think it means to be black. When someone says it:
Are they saying that the kid is articulate or inarticulate?
Are they saying that the kid is refined or “ghetto”?
Are they saying that the kid has swag or is a nerd?
Are they saying the kid is a model citizen or a low-level gangster?
Anytime I have heard this saying, it is being used with a negative connotation, which, for some odd reason, carries a coolness factor to it. So when I am explaining the intricacies of this statement with my child, I start by also explaining a different saying that I received from a friend.
Being black is not monolithic.
We have to be careful about how our children are speaking about blackness — all of us. We need children to know that words are powerful, and the origins of some of the words they use may continue a stereotype that is meant to oppress. When someone says, “That white kid thinks that he is black,” they are saying that the Caucasian kid is exhibiting some characteristics that may go against societal norms. They are not saying that the Caucasian kid is speaking articulately or dressed appropriately. For the user, blackness is viewed as inarticulation, under-education, aggressiveness, and loudness — which is another reason why representation is so important.
Look, I get it. Kids will be kids; they will say and do things based on their environment — and that is not saying that everything that comes out of kids’ mouths comes directly and only from the home. But it is saying that their underdeveloped brains interpret whatever they are exposed to, so all forms of media play a crucial part in their overall development.
I am not any of those stereotypes that people may see in movies or on social media. So it is shocking to people they really get to know me
(correction: I can fulfill some of those stereotypes when pushed, but I am a work in progress —- I enjoy being multi-faceted).
It is up to the collective, both black and non-black, to correct this. It is up to us to make sure that black culture is seen in a positive light.
I love being black. It comes with a style and a swagger that people want. Being black is cool.
Don’t deny it.
I bask in years the trials and tribulations of my ancestors. But I also bask in the successes as well.
I love our style, I love our music, I love our art, I love our versatility, and I love our ableness to adapt.
But most of all, I love our swag.
And you know what? Other people love it as well. So if other ethnicities want in, then so be it. But let’s do it in a way that does not box black culture into negative stereotypes. Let’s celebrate it instead.