Can I Identify As Black?
A poem: BBB
I am black
I am bold
I am beautiful
yeaaaa, this gets a lot of applause.
A poem: WBB
I am white
I am bold
I am beautiful
yea, nahh, nobody ever says that…sorry nahh
Ok, another rant or maybe just ruminating thoughts in my head
Flashback — BlackGirl Phase
A few years ago, I tweaked my creative hashtag on IG and FB to include the word “black” — it was something like #blackgirlwho…(sorry I am anonymous, can’t give the full hashtag in this post).
Why? It was a cool thing to do, especially as I was just making friends from across the ocean and the black American community was burning hot to be recognised, so I wanted to be a part of that change. It’s like how men call themselves feminists because that's the latest burning struggle online and they want to be a part of it. (I kinda have a problem with loud feminist men tho. But that's another story for another day). I didnt think it was deceitful cause I wanted to identify as black. P.S. I got tired of the hashtag after a while. It tasted sour in my mouth.
Black But Not Black
So I included black in my hashtag but I wasn’t “black”! Obviously, I am African, dark-skinned, with full knowledge of the slavery and present Black struggle in the Western world (I mean we get a lot of that in the media and across social media). But the concept of being “black” was too vague and far removed from my consciousness I couldn’t even picture myself as an identified Black person because I am African, and black is not my identity. Everyone around me is black, there are no white kids or white families around me. There is no experience of discrimination between Whites and Blacks in my community, at work, in the hospital, hotel, school, etc. and this fact shielded me from the mental realisation of being actually the westernised “black” in the global context.
Back home: What it meant to be black
Don’t get me wrong, colourism exists in Africa, and back in my country, luck favours the fair-skinned. Although it is common to discriminate against dark-skinned people, making them subjects of colourist jokes, it cant be compared to the atrocities of racism. In Nigeria, like some other African countries, (and India) the dark-skinned girl is ugly and must be yellow. She is pressured by society and peers to brutalise her natural tone of melanin to achieve a yellow glow of unnatural multicoloured vulnerability, lost inside skin-toning bottles of “organic concoction” that peel the flesh, leaving knuckles in rings of black.
I don't know if that description makes any sense to you, but as a young nubile girl, I had to fight the urge to these bottles. So being black back home is having a darker unappealing shade of melanin that is found less attractive and associated with poverty. You do not get treated less than human, nor do you face police brutality, you are not denied access to wealth or education, you do not fight for your fundamental human rights, or be chased out of public pools. Although it comes with its own bias, being black is not a death sentence in my home country!
The Present: Learning to be black in a white world
It’s been 3 months of living in Portugal (one of the least racist European countries) and I became black just by jumping on a plane. But I still don’t know how to be the white person’s version of “black”. I wonder how it would be in highly racist countries because it is not cool learning how to be the “black” that “white” people expect.
But I am beginning to get the drift slowly. I am beginning to link the dots together, to identify that this random white person is shocked to see a black person and not just a person as expected when I show up at a sip and paint. I am beginning to notice the avoidance of gaze, the hesitation to connect, the futility of my first smiles and the extra effort at friendship.
I am beginning to learn how much I have to open and stretch my arms to be hugged when all around me short white hands align and fuse together and strangers’ faces receive a kiss before I am even acknowledged. I am learning to muffle my humour and hesitate to help so I don’t seem slavish and pathetic. I am learning to see my black reflect in their eyes before my African or humanity.
I am learning to be that person whose ancestors were caged, chained and denied the right to vote in the last century. The person who is probably the only literate in her village (ridiculous right?!)The person whose food is exotic and “must be nice”. I am learning to be the one who is asked how the lions in my compound back home are doing. Ok, the wild animal thingy was very funny, because I just couldn’t wrap my head around that question. I have lived in the city all my life. I have to be the person who brings the diversity opinion even if it is not applicable (I loved my diversity class btw)
I am learning to identify as the “black girl” but I dont think I am getting the drift yet. I dont wear weaves often, I am the rasta girl with lovely dreadlocks that has seen better days(lmao). I wear them proudly with African patterned earrings giving that wild African look (I imagine thats how my nordic classmates see it).
I cant be the black they’re comfortable with
The media and influencer culture taught me that it is easier for white people to deal with blacks on straight weaves. Especially caucasian weaves with that center part that shows a fake scalp, and I should learn the frequent hair tuck behind my ears. Because every time I wear my mexican-looking curly wig to class, more smiles linger my way. More classmates stay behind to “ I really like your hair” I get compliments of how awesome my hair looks. (Like girl! this is a wig duh!, my real hair has followed me to class every day for the last month you all refused to see me)
I am black but not “black”, yet
I am in this confused state where I sometimes forget that I am supposed to be the “stereotyped black” and react to actions/words that were tailored for a black to make me see white people as allies or to test my intelligence. My African friends are teaching me how to spot racist comments and now I am questioning everything.
It’s tough and not helping me have a productive relationship with my colleagues.
So I let myself explore a kinda mental space where I am first African, original, true to my elegance and throaty belly laughs. And I love to wear my natural locks in cornrows, adorn my neck with the lion’s tooth pendant beads, wear my cowries proudly and stare blankly at everything around me.
Screaming silently, I do not see you until you see me.
P.S. My article titles are meant to be clickbait worthy, yea and I try to pull them out of my pun pockets. Although this time around I chose the word “identify as black” because the world is transitioning into a fluid state of self-identities, and I am in a country where that concept is openly practised and now I have to question a lot of bias, which is a story for another rant.
This is the diary of an #unusualhuman searching for thrills until the bliss of nothingness drags her beyond this consciousness. She feels, she bleeds, she heals, she feels again.