Whether you’re African-American, Caribbean, straight outta Africa or floating around the globe as part of the Black diaspora, chances are you’ve probably had your ‘blackness’ questioned. It can come from anywhere from family members to people who barely know you commenting on how you don’t quite fit the idea they have of what a Black person should be, leading you to wonder, ‘Is it Possible to Prove My Blackness?’
If you’ve ever wondered how you could appear blacker without parodying your own culture then look no further, because here is the Definitive Cheat Sheet on Proving Your Blackness for the 21st Century. TOP 7 (because I heard it was a lucky number)
- Doing the opposite of what everyone Says:
This one is very literal. Over the last few decades, there have been many images of blackness that have become ingrained into popular culture through music, film, television and literature. Unfortunately most of this media is produced by people who do not look like us and quite frankly, their agenda is to denigrate us to mess with our self-esteem. Take black women for example, the general image of us out there is one of two things: Hypersexualised or Ratchet with masculine undertones.
To say there aren’t black women who have embraced their sexual nature and developed confidence from it would be ridiculous. It would also make us all very delusional to say there aren’t black women out there who are attracted to the rougher side of life. But the idea that these are the ONLY things we’re allowed to be is ridiculous.
So my advice is, the first step to ascending to true blackness is doing the opposite of what everyone says. I used the word ‘everyone’ because even well-meaning fellow black folk will question certain job, fashion, and life choices you might be making simply because it goes against the grain of what they’ve been taught. Please don’t be angry with these people, they don’t hate you, in fact it’s the opposite, they think they’re trying to help you by keeping you in a little box. The older generation is very guilty of this because their survival was dependent on being seen and not heard. But guess what? We’re not our grandparents, our aunts or even our parents. It’s a new era, so when a person ‘suggests’ that you do something or that you NOT do something because it’s ‘not what black people do’. Just do the opposite. We’re not a monolith or a single cell species.
Dye your hair, go to that concert, take that language course, start that business and love that person regardless of gender. Or don’t do it-remember it’s YOUR CHOICE.
- Learning about new cultures through travelling:
Now this one is what some might call a double-edged sword, as there are positives and negatives to being at large in the world while black.
One of the main factors is; if you’ve always questioned your blackness or had it questioned, be prepared for the next level-which I like to call OPPOY aka Other People’s Perceptions Of You. Just like OPP, I ain’t down with OPPOY especially on an international scale. If you thought that the expectations from the people in your school or neighborhood were a lot to deal with, wait till you start travelling.
You’ll meet people from all walks of life that have only seen blackness via performance (i.e. movies, music videos etc.) so they’ll naturally expect some type of performance from you. I can’t tell you how many times people suddenly developed an accent as soon as they found out I was Jamaican, and they did it because they wanted to coax me into speaking ‘Jamaican’. But my culture is not a costume, I don’t get to take it off when the curtains go down and neither do you black traveller.
It’s okay not to be down with OPPOY. Your goal is to travel, see new things and come back a different, more spiritually aligned person. You didn’t leave your town/city/province to end up in Warsaw dabbing on command surrounded by flashing lights and applause.
Remember why you started travelling in the first place, always refocus on your travel goals and try to look at every moment as a learning opportunity.
One of the negatives of travelling, especially when you’re having problems at home/your community is that leaving and seeing a different way of life only exacerbates how mundane and boxed in your previous life was. You might find yourself glaring at your surroundings and looking at your family and neighbours with a look of pity and disdain, because they haven’t seen what you’ve seen or met who you had the chance to meet. Once again, it’s not their fault as there are many reasons why people choose not to travel-fear is probably the top reason next to a lack of funds.
I guess you’re thinking, how does this relate to being black? Start travelling, you’ll find out exactly what I mean.
- Wearing whatever you want:
Fashion should be an expression of who you are, or of you are trying to be while you fake it till you make it. It should never be what other people project upon you. Fashion shouldn’t be about hiding yourself or copying anyone. It also doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or where it’s from. Be it a Fashionnova dress or a Moschino suit you got from the thrift store-how does it communicate who YOU are? Always ask yourself these questions, especially before making a big purchase.
In terms of demonstrating blackness, yes there are common signifiers that might make you look like a stereotype and if you fall into the trap, it’ll be just that, you in all your quirky, unique glory walking around looking like what society told you were supposed to look like, instead of taking the easier route of just looking like yourself by developing your own personal style.
The question is: Will it make you blacker if you get faux locs and rock a dashiki? Will it make you less black if you cosplay as Khaleesi for Comic Con 2018?
Nah. You’re black. That’s literally it.
- Finding that hobby that makes your heart flutter:
Go towards whatever turns that pilot light on inside of you. You know the feeling I speak of, it’s a slight burning feeling that vibrates all over your body and makes you smile to yourself because its yours and gets YOU going. Find whatever makes your heart flutter!
DO take that language class
GO on that hike
PAINT that picture
RECORD that vlog/podcast
WRITE that novel
SAY YES to new experiences
It’s your life and it’s your choice
- Reading literary works that help you grow:
Reading is good in fact it’s great. But just like the people that you choose to be around, reading only one type of book will stunt your growth, so please be open-minded when it comes to reading. If reading YA fiction is your gateway then so be it. But once you start, never stop elevating your reading.
Read books that encourage independent thought, get a kindle or pick up a real book. Just read. But never be ashamed of what you’re reading. A colleague saw me reading ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and noticed the comic book panels inside and gave me a look and said, ‘Are you reading a comic?’. Bear in mind we both worked as Learning Support Assistants with Autistic children, so my immediate response was, ‘Are you trying to shame me for reading?’ and I said that without even looking up from the page. After that that she started stuttering. I looked up and smiled (the kind that doesn’t reach your eyes) and continued reading. Don’t ever let anyone shame you for reading.
- Practicing self-care on a DAILY basis and understanding the concept of Media Gaslighting:
Navigating the world as a black person can seem like this most of the time:
With the 24 hour news cycle, trashy blogs and instagram ‘news’ pages that can’t decide whether they want to focus on being informative or irresponsible by shilling flat tummy teas, snake oil hair vitamins and posting fight videos, its quite hard to find peace. But it’s okay to practice self-care by turning off your social media alerts, even to the extent of deleting your accounts. It’s okay to look into alternative forms of medicine and ways of thinking in order to make sense of the world, It’s OKAY to want to look beyond the Bible and religion in general to find answers that just aren’t there. There are over 6 billion people in the world. One group of people does not have a monopoly on having all the answers.
Gaslight: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
Gaslighting can come from your own family members, so-called friends and colleagues. This usually occurs through microaggressions that will lead you to think you aren’t good enough because you don’t fit a certain stereotype. People will put you down in an attempt to brainwash and manipulate you. This will come from everywhere but the biggest source of this level of gaslighting comes from the media. From clickbait articles about cultural appropriation to the latest viral news stories, twitter rants from the depths of Lotionless twitter to the oversaturation of black gifs in articles clearly written by white people, these are all attempts to-excuse my lack of a better phrase-draw you out. As in, provoke you enough to the point where you feel you have to respond, and if you don’t respond or even have an opinion on whatever topic is being presented, then there’s something wrong with YOU.
There’s nothing wrong with you if you choose not to engage. Ascending to true blackness means you’re cognisant of the fact that maintaining a healthy state of mind is important. Not everything needs a response.
- And lastly, always center yourself as an individual first:
What is Blackness? There’s no definitive answer because ‘Black’ is just an arbitrary word placed upon us by other people. It changes meaning depending on where you are geographically and sometimes can lose all meaning. In short, we’ve kept this word ‘Black’ around for so long because at this current time it fits and can be used as a positive to describe cultural phenomena like Black Girl Magic, Black Lives Matter, Black Boy Joy and the goldmine that is Black Twitter. But it’s still just a word. You really don’t have ANYTHING to prove because your only duty in life is to make yourself a happy, stable human being.
But by the logic of number one on this list, you should probably disregard everything I just said. Or don’t. Either way it’s your choice. Just understand that there is NOTHING wrong with you.
Written By @ThatGirlDavis as a response to a listener letter for the Jinjja Cha Podcast. Girl Davis copes with the bullshit around her by using sarcasm at every given opportunity.