If you’ve any knowledge of James Brown, you already know what I’m about to say. To that end, there’s not nearly enough bandwidth on the internet to explain blackness in totality and it’s relation to the rest of the world (whiteness in particular), so I’ll keep it light. There’s a certain level of relief and feeling of appreciation when I meet a new black person. I know how this sounds so bear with me here. It’s a funny little dance that all black people do whether you’re aware of it or not. When meeting, there’s always this assessment of “how black are you?” This type of parley exists in every black sphere of new connections, online or otherwise. I always thought this was such an interesting phenomenon because it’s nearly universal in the black community. I imagine something similar happens in other cultural spheres, but I haven’t the experience. So black people it is.
The first thing that must be noted is that black people come in a rainbow of colors. From paper to purple; we all over that melanin spectrum. And all over that hair color and texture spectrum too. So it’s not always obvious to those not entrenched in blackness to tell. That person may not readily exhibit or even identify culturally with people of the African diaspora so it can be tricky. Secondary thing to note is vernacular and disposition. This too is a spectrum. We range from hood to Harvard on speech patterns along with how the we carry ourselves. I think my favorite thing about meeting educated (college or otherwise) black people is that they start off speaking with proper grammar and enunciation, but once they’re comfortable with the situation, the flavor comes spilling out. And honestly it’s beautiful to see black peoples’ guard come down like that. Code switching is a survival tool. Too often are we on the defensive, especially with Cheeto Voldemort heading this centipede of a country.
This dance though, it’s so intriguing to me because I’ve done it so many times. It’s really a game of minesweeper sometimes. I’ll be talking and then throw out a “fosho” or “trippin” or “I’m black, I can’t be doing all that” just to see how the other person reacts while they’re doing the exact same thing to me. So we’re sitting here playing Battleship with our blackness like:
Black person 1: “White people have finally tasted disenfranchisement on A13.”
Black person 2: ” Ayyy, turn up! You sunk their privilege ship!”
Black person 1: “My nigga!”
That might be my next project honestly. Just documenting the nuances of the black experience because I’ve never heard this talked about or even discussed beyond a passing remark. I’m sure someone has beat me to it, but I’m too lazy yo research. It’s definitely akin to animals sniffing each other and sizing up. You have to prove if you’re worthy of title of “black” which present its own issues because blackness isn’t purely static nor does take on a definition within a vacuum. There are times were I do and don’t feel black, which sounds very counter-intuitive in a way. And then we stumble upon the age old question of “what does it mean to be black?” Frankly I have no fucking idea.
I mean I do, but outside of the surface bullshit (like soul food, black comedians, and shitting on white people on occasion), there isn’t really a manual on navigating or taking care of your blackness. It’s one of those things you either embrace or reject. I don’t believe there’s a moral judgment on either choice. It’s just what that person decides to contend with. And then you get into another diatribe where what’s perceived as “black” is negative and the self-hatred due to centuries of psychological conditioning I mean it gets really fucking deep. I’m trying to keep this light, but it’s hard y’all.
Suffice to say blackness is as elusive as the light in my refrigerator. I know it’s there, I can see it, feel it, taste it (lewd), and smell it. But I don’t know if it’s still there when I’m not thinking about it or present within a situation that reminds me of it. And half the time it’ll morph into something and worm its way into a situation I’ve never had to address it in before. God, it’s so riveting. I’m seriously enamored by my inability to dissect it and be like “This is what blackness is.” Because my definition will be an amalgamation of my experiences as a black, Millennial man. I listen to as much metal and electronica as I do hip hop. I wear clothes that fit me (form fitting if I’m feeling myself). 90 percent of my wardrobe consists of comic book and cartoon character tee shirts. There’s nothing exclusively black about any of that outside of the word black. So I’m at a loss really.
Back to this blackness measuring dance. It’s funny because black people in America have been disenfranchised from their African roots for centuries. When I think about black people I don’t think “African-American” To me that’s bullshit. I don’t identify with Africa. Hell, Africans don’t like black people anyway for various reasons I won’t explore here, but that’s kind of the thing. And it’s not pure hatred or bitterness thing. I think it’s more so disappointment in that the black community of America has squandered their potential for greatness with the “crabs in a bucket” mentality. Black people, this is a generality so don’t get salty, hate to see other black people doing well for themselves. The first thing in their heads isn’t “Wow that’s awesome man, go head and do your thing. I’m gonna learn from your success and I’m going to join you soon brother.” It’s “Man fuck that sellout ass nigga man. He done forgot where he came from bro. Talking about that unity bullshit, man fuck him. When I get on, I’ma be out this bitch. Fuck what anybody say.”
And frankly that’s why we’re losing so hard. It’s bad enough we gotta contend with the bullshit from outside people, we’re poisoning our own people with negativity. I empathize with that frustration at feeling abandoned though because my example poorly portrays those in the struggle. The reverse scenario is also very prevalent. When black people become successful some do actively ignore where they came from. They act like they been ballin’ since the umbilical was cut. Not accounting for the fact that the people in their community were instrumental in their success, like it or not. Them old heads telling them to pull up their pants or their grannies telling them to respect themselves. Their aunts and uncles (related or not) telling them to watch the company they keep because snakes love tall grass. I wish there was a way to really commune with both avenues so we can all come together and really start rebuilding our foundation. That’s where the change starts honestly.
God damnit, there’s just so much to talk about here so I’ll part with this. Black and African people are the blueprint for humanity. So we gotta figure out how we’re gonna reclaim our inventions up in here. Because black is beautiful a million times over. Black men and women are valuable and without us, the world would be dimmer. I’ve been saying it in the mirror at least once a day recently. Because the way this country is set up right now, I won’t be hearing it from too many people in general. Stay strong my peoples.