I’ve spent a lot of time recently comparing my life and my interests to the other interests and forms of expression that are ‘accepted’ within the black community. Over the years, I’ve been bombarded with comments on ‘blackness’ and I’m left trying to decipher what that really means.
After watching a particularly interesting episode of House of Cards, I suggested the show to someone. (After having no luck with getting them into Game of Thrones or Orphan Black or any of my other favorites, I thought maybe Kevin Spacey could do the trick). I explained the plot of the show and even threw in Kevin Spacey’s name in order to help, but to no avail. Desperately trying to get them into it, I said “Well, It’s just like Scandal except with white people”. All I got in return was laugh and a little while later the, “You’re not a real black person ” comment. Of course I immediately took offense. I’ve been hearing variations of that sentence for as long as I can remember, and it’s still annoying and narrow-minded everytime I hear it. I said something to the effect of “I hate that people think ‘blackness’ is defined by the stuff we watch or what we do. Like just because I don’t listen to rap doesn’t mean I’m less of black person than you are.”
I continued by saying that there were many different types of black people, and as long as I have a black parent, I am a black person. I don’t know where this archetypal depiction of the ‘ideal black person’ came from within the black community. And to be quite honest, I hate that I have to be compared to this imaginary figure.
I admit, throughout the years, and even still today I’ve actively done things to fit more into the mold. Like watching terrible reality shows that were not only , again terrible, but shed a negative light on black people, listening to artists who made music with lyrics that I detest or speaking more like my friends using words that I just don’t like using. Which is ridiculous, and upsets me because that behavior doesn’t help to cement my status into a group that I’m already a part of. If that makes any sense.
But don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my culture. Those staple movies that we consider a necessity in order to be included within the community(I’m looking at you Friday), the music-every genre of music has been inspired by black people and we invented Rock and Roll (don’t @ me). And the hair, my god the hair. Black hair is possibly one of my favorite things in the world, it’s a subject that deserves it’s own blog post so let’s move on before I get carried away. Anyway jumping the broom at a wedding ceremony and later doing the electric slide at the reception, waking up to gospel music playing on Saturday morning and knowing that it was cleaning day, oh my god I almost forgot the food. Need I say more?
And I also love watching Doctor Who and reading Harry Potter. Amy Winehouse is one of my favorite musicians and I get really, really excited when I listen to Grouplove or Fitz and the Tantrums.
There is so much out there in terms of entertainment and I don’t think we should be limited to only one piece of the whole thing. It’s unfair to tell a person that they are less of their culture or not a valid representation of it because of the types of shows they like to watch or the music they listen to. Listen, Game of Thrones is a gift to us all and I will tell every person I know black or white or green to go and watch it because at this point- WHY ARE YOU NOT WATCHING? But I digress. Anyway, despite what society’s idea of a black person should be or the qualities they think black people should possess, we are literally all completely different and there is no one ideal standard that we are all going to attain. It’s just like the beauty industry, we are forced to look at the same ideal beauty standard over and over again and for some us(like I don’t know a curvy teenaged black girl?), we just know that we do not fit the standard, so we don’t waste time trying to.
Why should I have to listen to certain types of music or dress a certain way in order to be validated as a ‘real black person’? Why do the shows I watch, the books I read, or the way I speak contribute to the illusion of a diminished level of blackness? When I look in the mirror and gaze at my kinky, textured hair and at my brown eyes and skin,( and a pretty remarkable set of eyebrows if I do say so myself) I know who I am, I know what I am and I know that something as trivial as a t.v show will never define or change that.
P.S- this is only part 1, because I still have a lot to say about this.