Recently inspired by meeting Toure at a sit down interview the other day (and also promoting his book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness), I felt the need to write about this, because, through the power of writing in a journal, blogging or social networking, people always have a way to express how they feel about themselves and how they feel about their surroundings. When it comes to being a black person – and yes, I’m just going to be using Black, because not everyone is considered an African-American – there’s a great history that comes with that. It’s a history that comes with a lot of pain, and lot of struggle, but it also comes with great leaders, historical movements, and groundbreaking and barrier-crossing events.
A lot of people think that they know what it is to be black, but that’s not always the case. The question is really, what is being black TO YOU? Toure made a good point saying that there are 40 Million Black people in the world (give or take), but at the end of the day, we’re all individuals, we all have different mindsets, and we all know what it means to be black FOR US! And that’s really the main point I’m trying to drive: What’s being black to you? Saying you’re black because of your skin colour (okay, obvious), and listening to the same music that black people are “supposed” to listen to? No, because FIRST OFF, we’re people first. We all have different tastes in music, style, and the mannerisms that we were raised with, albeit they’re most likely similar, they’re still different throughout every household. That’s about people, but when it comes to BLACK people, depending on which area you came from, you’ll typically listen to the same music, eat the same food, and routinely participate in the same type of activities as would someone from your ethnic background participate in, but that doesn’t necessarily define your blackness, and that’s where a lot of people come to a dead end, because they don’t know what exactly is “being black.”
Let’s use myself for example: I’m a Canadian born Jamaican; my mother was born in Canada, my father was born in Jamaica, but came to Canada as a young kid. I’m essentially 2nd generation Canadian; as are a good majority of people my age. I pretty much experienced living in 2 different types of households.
My grandparents came to Canada (honestly, I don’t know when), and only one of their 5 children was born in Canada, and they pretty much brought their mannerisms, and their way of raising a family over here, and that included the language, the food, and the culture of being a Jamaican. They also lived in areas that had a good majority of Jamaicans as well, so they embraced the others, and it was easier to mesh with the others in the community, this included the church I was taken to, which you could label as a “black church,” although different cultures attended as well (just, not as much).
With my mother’s side; that’s a different story. All of my mom’s siblings (including my mom) were born in Canada (both parents born in Jamaica, however), and their way of living was different. They didn’t always live in areas populated with a lot of fellow Jamaicans, because a good majority was spent in the suburbs. They attended high school’s that were predominately white, and although they had Jamaican parents (unfortunately my Grandfather died when 3 of the siblings were yet to be born), not all of the same cultural customs that perhaps my father’s side was raised on, was the same for my mother’s (given the circumstances of course and others that I won’t dive into out of respect for my family). Both sides of my family are black, but both sides went through different experiences, lived in different areas, and thus different mentalities were formed and developed through their life’s progressions.
Talking about the level of blackness that one has, comes from the people outside of your household that were raised in their respective households that share a similar background to yours and they expect you to have the same experiences as them. Example: they listen to reggae; you’re supposed to listen to reggae too. They eat Jamaican food; you’re supposed to eat Jamaican food too. It’s just a couple of those things that certain people look at when judging your blackness. When you go outside of the norm and really defy what it means “to be black,” a lot of people see you as not being black, although you have the same skin colour.
I know a lot of people who aren’t black that listen to more reggae & hip hop music than me, but does that make them black? No, they simply appreciate things that ARE black. Toure made a few good points during his interview, and one of them was an example of him when he was skydiving. Now, as the “black people code” goes (there’s not an actual code, but you get the idea), we don’t bungee jump, sky dive, swim, ski, snowboard, and even going on roller coasters. Pretty much, anything that requires a lot of adrenaline that isn’t given out on a basketball court or a football field (American football, but you can throw in soccer too), we don’t do it, and we’re fine with it. See, that’s where Toure came in and delivered a point: Yes, there are a lot of black people that wouldn’t skydive, but then again, right there with those black people are regular non-black people whose initial response when being asked to skydive would be “HELL NO,” which is normal, because for real? I’m NOT about that life, at all. That may change, but who knows? Only I do. There are black people that have actually done, or would even ENJOY doing the activities that I listed (I still need to learn how to swim btw), but if you bring that up with black people who aren’t as open-minded as you, you get the “You’re crazy dawg. Niggas don’t do that shit yo.” And to be honest, it’s stupid. I remember the day I came home from work one day, and I had a book with me (The Ice Man; it’s a true crime book. Great read; they’re making it into a movie) and I was pretty much explaining it, and I got hit with “Don’t come around here with those books yo, real niggas don’t read.” At first, shock ensued, and I was puzzled as to what I just heard. Was it a joke? Was I supposed to have a reaction? What could I say to that? I said nothing, but I gave my signature sarcastic look like “Nigga, what?” It was astounding.
I’ve been called an Oreo since I was about 10 -11 years old. I wasn’t hip hop savvy, I was a bit of a nerd, and I read a lot of books instead of losing myself to video games & watching BET (back when it was actually worth watching). I was into astronomy (occasionally am now), and I did a lot of writing in a series of journals (which it explains why I always have shit to say). So, when you look at the “typical black male,” especially at my age, you wouldn’t see any of those traits in them (depending on where you lived of course). I never really questioned my blackness, because I pretty much knew what I was, given the fact that I was called a nigger by some white kid when I was like 2 years old, and I was bullied by white kids when I lived in Scarborough. So the fact that I was called white washed because I utilized my education more than my street knowledge and language was kind of confusing to me, and a lot of black people can relate to that, because that term “white-washed” is commonly used in the black community when describing other educated black people who weren’t like them, and I don’t know if it really goes on today, but if it does, that’s really retarded, if you ask me.
Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain stand-up comedy movie is classic because of the one joke he had entitled “Black People vs. Niggas.” It’s personally one of my favourite sets ever, and Chris Rock isn’t the most educated black man, but he’s one of the smarter ones that have come around over the years. Although he made a lot of points during the set, one that particularly stood out was when he was talking about the presidential campaign (I think it was for 1996 at the time), and people were talking about Colin Powell running. “Whenever you ask white people about Colin Powell they say, ‘He speaks so well’” … “He’s a Fuckin educated man, what the fuck do you mean he speaks so well?” I too have heard that I speak well. It adds into the “blackness,” because if you speak a certain way, and the voice that people expect to come out doesn’t come out as planned for them, they get taken back a bit, and it makes no sense because, why should it matter? Yes, I’m black, but I have to dumb myself down to have a conversation with you? Pardon my French, but GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE! This applies to those that can relate, because how many times have you had a conversation with people, used some Oxford dictionary words, and got with the “Yo, you’re using big words,” maybe you need a bigger dictionary to expand your vocabulary, how about that? It’s STUPID, and unnecessary. That is why I truly believe that black people will never come together and unify as one, despite what history has shown us, and what it continues to show us today with recent events like Trayvon Martin with people coming together to really voice out their displeasure of how that situation is being handled.
This may seem like I’m just simply rambling on and I’m not making a clear point, but ignorance is something that has consumed many, not just black people, but I’m not worried about the others right now. I’m proud of who I am, I don’t know a lot of my black history, because as we all know, schools don’t teach us SHIT about black history, and we’re forced to go do the research for ourselves. Toure made that example when he was talking about his college experience when another black guy said that he wasn’t black because he hung out with a majority of white kids, but he read Malcolm X’s book and really took a broad step in his personal growth as a black man. There are more than just a few cultural things and physical attributes that define someone as black. It’s about knowing your history and embracing it. It’s about being knowledgeable about your own surroundings, and not being caught up in what others define as black. We’re all meant to be different, because who really wants to be the same as everyone? That would be boring.
So, all I’m saying is that, there’s a reason James Brown made the song I’m Black & I’m Proud, because as black people, we should be proud of where we come from, and we should really take the time to not only look at ourselves, but look at how other people look at us, and then really dig inside of yourself to go out there and learn the history of what it means to be black. There’s only so much you can learn from a small group of people until you really go out and learn what else is out there. I love my black people, but you have to love yourselves first as people, and embrace the beautiful black that is you.
That’s My Word & It STiXX