I bet I'm not the only one who has ever wondered what makes something or someone too Black as apposed to not Black enough. Come on, don't act like y'all don't know what I'm talking about? Okay, wait . . . does the use of a word like y'all mark me as Black? Southern? Ignorant and uneducated? Are any (or perhaps, all) of the aforementioned synonymous? In some people's book, apparently so.
Okay, so what if I make a practice of always speaking and writing in grammatically correct English. Will it have an impact on my DNA? The melanin in my skin? My cultural identity? Will it somehow make me less Black?
One of my best friends, a woman who has known me since my freshman year in college has this peculiar habit of laughing at something I've said and then telling me, "Girl, you so Black!" Hmm, so what exactly does that mean? And when compared to whom, I wonder?
Every few years, I have this habit of giving my hair a break from chemical relaxers and wearing my tresses au natural. In case you're wondering, yes, I am currently in the middle of one of those stages. But I've long been fascinated by what other Black folks read into both this practice as well as the appearance of my hair in its natural, unrelaxed and unstraightened state.
I remember being in a conversation with a co-worker once and her making a comment that I'm sure a number of Black & White folks alike would have deemed politically incorrect. After making the remark, my co-worker looked over at me (and my naturally nappy head) and said something along the lines of, "I guess that means my Black card is gonna have to be revoked, huh?" I grinned back at her and said, "What? Did you miss the memo? Naw girl, see, I'm not even in charge of that this year."
The truly funny thing is--just as soon as somebody labels me "too Black" for one reason or another, someone else is quick to step forward and suggest I'm somehow not quite Black enough.
I never will forget the time I was talking and laughing with one of my Black male co-workers when he up and said, "You must be married to a White guy." I was like, "What? Huh? Where in the heck did that come from?" By the same token, my spouse (who is indeed, very much an African American man) tells me his co-workers (the ones who've never met or seen me in person) are in the habit of assuming he's married to a White woman.
Okay, so obviously, I'm in a no win situation here (LOL). But you know what I've decided? Just as folks have a God-given right to think whatever the hell they please about me and mine, as long as I know who the hell I am, it's all good (smile).
Still, I'd very much like to know from all of those who have deemed themselves the arbitrators of such--what sorts of things define Blackness? I'm saying, is there like a list or something? If so, what sorts of things are on it?
--Whether or not one can get down with a plate of collard greens and neckbones?
--Whether or not one grew up in the ghetto, in the projects or in the hood drinking red Kool-Aid and eating fried bologna sandwiches?
--Being able to rap, dance, carry a tune, play Bid-Whist and sing Old Negro spirituals?
--Belonging to a church where folks shout and speak in tongues?
--Being sexually promiscuous? Being athletically gifted?
--Wearing locs? Braids? Sagging pants?
--Having any (or all) of the following in your immediate family--a crack head, a pimp, a gang-banger, a stripper, a two-bit ho . . .
--Being loud, ill-mannered, always ready to fight and or cuss somebody out?
--Being a high school drop-out? Having a criminal record? Being on welfare? Having five children by five different partners?
Do any (or all) of the aforementioned fit into your definition of Blackness? If so, why? If someone who wasn't Black described African Americans exclusively in those terms would you or would you not be offended? Is there a difference between embracing a positive stereotype and embracing a negative one? What qualifies one to decide who's too Black and who isn't quite Black enough?To Be Continued . . .
But feel free to comment now, if you'd like (smile).