Being Black: A Burden or a Blessing?

2015-02-09 08:16

This question must be asked. And if you're looking for an answer, move on to brighter things, for I am not qualified to provide answers, but I am certainly in the business of asking.

In many conversations I had, I see recurring phrases manifesting themselves in the mouths of those who desperately seek to dignify their blackness. Statements such as "being black is a continued lived experience", that say more about the person's feelings towards being black than being black itself.

A continued lived experience, a shared existence that is imposed or willingly adopted by the black community.

One cannot be black alone, but, rather, we ought to be black together. We ought to, in our daily musings, remember the struggle and, in our pockets, carry with us the unprocessed rage and melancholy of the black history. Whatever step you take, if you are black, must be preceded by the steps of those who came before you, because there will always be someone who came before you, dictating where you are and where you're going.

But perhaps not.

Maybe our past is a call for celebration. Wherever we walk, creation can only sing our praises for we are the survivors, the great warriors, destined to fight until the battle is won, for the struggle lives on. We've come to find glory in our suffering, and such glory grew roots in the hearts of the black community. A sense of togetherness that forms out of our shared oppression, the foundation upon which self-motivation emerges.

To find a black identity, this, assuming it has been lost, is the translation of the inner desperation that plagues my people.

A quiet, banging voice in the black brain urges us to pluck ourselves from the prolonged pit of never-ending suffering, but the responsibility of being black disallows.

Doctrines, ideals and philosophies come as an aid to our own denied identity crisis. Scholars who, in their words, glorified blackness and placed it amidst the synonyms of virtue and strength.

We know that black is beautiful, but our hair is simply too coarse to cope, so we crucify the imposed beauty standards as we openly pat our weaves. We love and respect our brothers and sisters, but wish to blush when someone calls us pretty, "especially coming from a white guy". We keep our space from each other, because some of us are so raw, so ghetto, that if people see us together they will question our association. Or we draw in the darkness, play the piano when no one can hear, because if otherwise, we'll be accused of doing white people things and being a coconut.

We are living in a world where it's not enough to simply be black. One must act black. Our behaviours, actions and preferences are racialized.

A good black hates the white man after a slavery movie, and stays away from purchasing yoghurt because that would be feeding into the white man's capitalism. A good black chooses to walk in the chains which have oppressed the ones who came before him. Chains that reduce their own blackness to a moment in history that shall forever be revived. A scene onstage reenacted with the same emotional intensity, the same script, only different characters. Someone who has the gift of a sharp tongue, an unfailing memory, even of things he himself might have not witnessed. A good black sees racism and oppression everywhere. And chants "the struggle lives on", because the good black knows it's working for him.

A terrible black is plagued by historical amnesia. He cannot seem to recall himself in the midst of those who have suffered, and though he tries, he simply cannot subscribe to this community suffering doctrine. A terrible black's well articulated English gets misconstrued as arrogance, as shame and as self-hatred to his own roots. A terrible black does not understand this concept of a shared root, seeing as, though he may have stemmed from the same seed, his destiny is not dictated by the ground from which he was born.

Beware the terrible black, for though he has come to find beauty in his blackness, he does not proclaim the superiority in his shared suffering, but hopes to, instead, live in a world where blackness is not something that needs to be imposed in order to be deemed worthy by the very blacks he has come to know. A terrible black may, sometimes, enjoy a good dosage of satire.

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