On the Importance of Being ‘Black’ & the Burden of ‘Proof’

1 Mar

Today, I was watching an interesting YouTube video by a biracial writer named Maya Goode, who was discussing the topic of “do I have to ‘prove my blackness as a writer?'”—to which my response would be a resounding hell no.

Allow me to explain.

‘Blackness,’ Today, Retains a Mindset of Enslavement, Sadly

To be honest, I’ve always found it mind-boggling how biracial people can be treated in the United States. My cousins, who are mixed, have always talked about feeling as if they never really “fit in” with blacks or whites. Yet, as for me and my black family and how I didn’t grow up with “the struggle” of being poor, I have constantly been reminded of this—especially by my mixed cousins. How could I possibly understand what it means to be black when I haven’t even had to “struggle?”

Personally, I don’t care for being black. At all. “Black” is a prison some choose to erect around themselves in order to feel safe then force onto others who make them feel unsafe.

Why would I want to be “black” when so many other “black” people have failed to accept me—the same “blacks” who are constantly trying to find ways to invalidate other people’s experiences so they can elevate their experiences over that of others, just so they can feel better about themselves? That is the most enslaving attitude a person can choose to cling to all of his or her life, and I refuse to live that way.

It’s like certain black Americans today simply refuse to just let go of the idea of slavery…despite that it’s everything our ancestors have suffered for and fought so hard against. (Oddly enough, I don’t think this mindset restricts itself to the black community.)

What good is there in limiting your creative potential to ethnic or cultural expectations?

‘You Don’t Owe This World a Thing’ – Submitting ‘Proof’ to Others Need Not Apply

To quote Clark Kent’s adoptive human mother—and by the way, I think she’s right.

As a human being, I have never understood the need to “prove ourselves” from an ethnic or cultural standpoint. In fact, I sometimes find it difficult to identify with people of the same race, let alone the same skin color!

I actually feel more “at home” in diverse settings because, starting from a very young age, I have almost always lived in suburban neighborhoods with a wide range of ethnicities represented. So now, when I do find myself surrounded solely by black people—or solely by individuals of any given ethnicity, actually—I often feel really, really out of place.

Part of this may have to do with my experience leaving my home in Ohio when I was 8, where there were a lot more black people than where I live now (Arizona); when I returned, I was shunned with comments from other blacks like, “Why you sound so white?” Or, “Why you talk that way?”

That incident was actually my first encounter with racism and one of the few I’ve come across my entire life, as far as I can remember. Oddly enough, my experiences around people of other ethnicities have been far more accepting than with that of my own. It’s actually more surprising these days when people remind me that I am “black,” to be honest, because I truthfully don’t look at myself as any particular skin color. To me, I am simply “me.”

All of this together has been the most mind-boggling thing to accept.

Ethnic Individuals Are Individuals First

I’ve also always felt quite different from most people in general in that I find my own company to be preferable to most others as a severe introvert. As such, I think I grew up finding other ways to define myself that have nothing to do with what other people do or think of me and everything to do with what I want to do and what I think of me.

In fact, I happen to think I’m incredibly selfish. If I wasn’t, I doubt I’d ever understand who I really am. How could I if I continued to act and think and live they way others expect me to rather than being the unique person I was meant to be?

Contrast is what highlights our reality; otherwise, we only see the dark—or the light, which can be equally blinding.

The older I get, the more I come to think that really, this is the whole point of being alive: we must learn to appreciate the meaning of things (and ourselves) by seeing them in contrast to what they (we) are not. (In turn, that which contrasts the things we seek to learn must also be appreciated.) Everything is a gift, and yet everything can be taken away. I am a gift; you are a gift. We were also given the gift of free will, granting us the ability to give (or withhold) ourselves and our gifts freely.

At the end of the day, I doubt anyone could ascertain my “blackness” just by reading my novels alone, simply because it’s not something I choose to focus on or promote in any way. So if I do ever happen to encounter “prove yourself as black” comments when I do publish my first novel, it will probably be met with a very civil but resounding…

F*** YOU–because quite frankly, I owe you nothing.

(Though, feel free to enjoy my “gifts” in the meantime.)

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8 Responses to “On the Importance of Being ‘Black’ & the Burden of ‘Proof’”

  1. therailbaron March 3, 2017 at 3:18 AM #

    Same here. Black white and native. I feel ya.

    Like

    • T.M. White March 4, 2017 at 9:32 AM #

      What’s funny is that most people, I think, are mixed in some way. Yet people continue to judge each other by the way they look, speak, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      • therailbaron March 4, 2017 at 9:35 AM #

        Yeah, it was very troubling growing up. Even now, being around a group of just one race more than one hour is tiring. You get each side…to a point. But harping on it, remaining bitter, never changing for the better…nah.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anthony Lee Collins March 3, 2017 at 11:08 PM #

    It is true that people in specific groups often seem to devote a lot of time and effort to excluding other people from the group — and it’s not limited to race. Some Orthodox Jews don’t acknowledge that Reform Jews are even Jewish. Some “LG” people in “LGBT” resisted including the “B” and “T” people (this may still be going on — I don’t know). I’ve seen people with multiple personalities argue about whether they were really qualified.

    I don’t have strong opinions about any of that, since I’m not a member of any of those groups, but with writers, what counts is the writing, I’m fine with not even knowing a writer’s race or age or gender or whatever. It’s all about the words.

    One of the great things about writing fiction (which I take advantage of pretty regularly) is that you don’t have to reveal those things about your characters either, if you don’t want to. (The tricky one is gender, because of how English works, but even that you can conceal if you want to.)

    Like

    • T.M. White March 4, 2017 at 9:43 AM #

      I think you make a good point: this kind of shunning and exclusion happens with all different types of people. We’re all unique but at the same time very similar if we look at things from a “big picture” standpoint.

      That would make for an interesting story, intentionally not revealing a person’s gender. Have you read any stories like this before, Anthony?

      Like

  3. deshipley March 4, 2017 at 7:42 AM #

    RELATABLE. I’ve had an increasingly difficult time feeling like a part of people of “look like me” because we simply don’t share the same culture. (And yeah, apparently using “big words” and standardized grammar has ever been a thing to be peer-shamed. …by POCs and whites alike. <_<) Then I'll hear calls on Twitter and whatnot for diverse artists / artists of color to stand up and be counted, and I don't even feel like I have the right to join in. 'Cause sure, my skin is brown, but racially speaking, I don't really identify as anything. Maybe if ALL groups were a little less interested in low-key excluding all others, I'd have a better chance of finding somewhere that I fit.

    Like

    • T.M. White March 4, 2017 at 9:50 AM #

      Right? Every time I see a call to “represent,” lol, I pretty much shirk from it. I don’t see the need to ally myself with others who share a similar background anymore because it’s not “us against them.” It’s just…me.

      I represent me. I fight my own battles–and sometimes, when compelled, I may even stand up for others who haven’t yet found the courage to do so themselves. But to make an entire movement out of it…it’s like man-eats-man. It’s an age-old conflict.

      I don’t need that kind of drama in my life, lol. I may pick my battles here and there, but I’m not one to start an all-out war…

      Like

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