“Belonging to or denoting any human group having dark-coloured skin, especially of African or Australian Aboriginal ancestry.” Oxford dictionary definition of black.
Today class, I have one question for you; what does it mean to be black?
How dark do I have to be to be accepted within the community? What is too light? How many generations of black ancestors do I have to be tied to, for you to consider me one of you?
Is there a certain way that I have to speak or dress? A certain area that I can or cannot live in? Or a certain car I should be driving and a certain artist I have to listen to?
And once you’ve set these parameters, what happens when I break one of the rules? When you find out that only one of my parents is black or I wear the wrong shoes or use the wrong words, am I no longer ‘in the group’? Is my membership revoked? Do you hold a meeting to decide if I still belong?
Does anyone have an answer for me? No-one?
Your silence is the only answer I need.
There is no absolute definition of blackness. Of course we can agree that you have to have some African or Caribbean blood coursing through your veins for science to formally classify you as black. But how much is enough?
There was a time when people did everything they could to conceal their race. When the ‘one-drop’ rule brought shame to those desperate to pass for something they were not. When people valued whiteness more than their families.
Nowadays we shame people for not being black enough. We laugh at people because they’re speech is too ‘white’ and mock those who don’t adopt the fashions that we consider integral to defining our race. We confuse cultural differences with racial uncertainty.
Why are we excluding people after fighting so hard to be considered equal? Would we prefer that they abandoned their blackness in its entirety?
Think about every person you’ve accused of not being black enough. Do you remember whispering and laughing at someone because they didn’t adhere to the guidelines you’ve been indoctrinated to believe define blackness? Think about how that person felt about you questioning their race; one of the most important aspects of our identity.
Would anyone like to share?
A professor questions ‘blackness’
By Shaurna Cameron