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.)