It’s February, and in the United States, February is Black History Month. Black History Month isn’t just to remind us of the struggles black people endured since being brought to this country, but to highlight the HUGE contribution they made to this nation and the world in all facets of industry, art and activism; contributions that are continually forgotten and suppressed. This year, I’m using this month reexamine my own blackness and what it is to be a black woman in America today.
While I was growing up, my racial identity wasn’t something that was largely reinforced, rather, my parents, especially my father, stressed our religious identity above all else. We weren’t raised colorblind by any means, and the paternal side of my family definitely seemed to carry some latent racism toward white. But being that I was homeschooled for a large portion of my childhood, I wasn’t exposed to much “other”, aside from my very restricted television viewing. There was some benefit to not growing up with a strong racial identity; it kept me extremely open to other people and cultures. When my family moved to Trinidad, I was heavily exposed to Caribbean and Indian culture and though I knew the cultures didn’t belong to me, after a while, certain aspects started to feel like mine, as if they had been grafted onto me. However, no matter how Trini I felt, I never forgot that I wasn’t and I never felt like In truly belonged. No amount of henna wearing, belly dancing or Bollywood movie watching would change the fact that these were all fragments of other peoples cultures, pieces that I so easily assimilated into myself because I had no virtually culture of my own…. or so I thought.
I won’t lie, I always enjoyed feeling like some kind of free spirited, multicultural grifter; not having to commit to being just one thing. But I was always quick to correct anyone who would assume I was anyone other than black.. It irks my soul to it’s very core when people ask me where I am from with the clear assumption in their mind that I am other than a black American woman. After a while I went through a phase where I felt that maybe I wasn’t black enough. But what does that even mean? What is it more than being a part of the African Diaspora? Is it a certain way of speaking? A socio-economic status? Certain music or dress? Growing up sheltered in the way that I was, a lot of what is defined as ‘black” wasn’t really placed on me for the most part… I mean, don’t come near me with any unseasoned food… but.. basically, I grew up only as black as my parents were/are.
While on my journey of self discovery and understanding my racial identity, I came to the conclusion that my blackness, aside from being black, is defined by the shared struggles and triumphs of the people who came before me, before us, paving the way. It is our shared history that binds us as family. Outside of every stereotype, despite all the different ways we were raised, regardless of the fact that some of us prefer alternative rock and pop to R&B or Rap, when we step outside, we wear our blackness before anything else in the eyed of most people.
Wear it proudly.
What does your racial/ethic identity mean to you? Leave a comment. Have a great week! :*