April 3, 2013 at 6:51 am #11939
My question is simple, who or what has shaped your concept of Blackness? While the question is a simple one it is multi-layered.
What is blackness in the post-modern era? Where does blackness happen? What constitutes blackness, melanin, culture, world view or geographic location?
One does not have to be black to engage with this, perceptions of modern era whiteness and otherness is relevant to defining blackness. Also, the American one drop understanding of blackness may not be perceived by people outside of the modern era construct of the Americas. —————->. Link for context…. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1a6OfVGCfPVbDYQOzCA1mKc6Gy3Wzsz2H90DCbK5nvPY/edit?usp=drive_webApril 4, 2013 at 10:56 am #11994
OK, one thing, I can’t see your google document…so I am certainly answering blind:
I’m not certain ther is one answer to your question. It will vary not only by location, but I think by generation.
I only know how to be my Black late 40′s authentic self and I can say it this way: Blackness, to me, is not the skin I wear, but rather the cultural house I live in. But a house has many rooms, right? I am certain I have a Black Latina doppelganger and an African doppelganger, and a Caribbean doppelganger and our houses would be functionally the same (decorated differenly, different pots cooking on the stove, perhaps different wardrobe in the closets) but certainly not identical. But then, your cousins are your family even though they weren’t raised in the house with you, right?
In other words, Blackness is something you experience. My Blackness is overlayed with being from PA and not Macon, Georgia or Newark, NJ. It’s overlayed with the dominant culture and the stateside Puerto Rican culture pressing down on it, molding it into something unique to me and maybe the other 3,000 people who grew up in my exact time & space. My Black spirituality is tempered with the Quaker ideals of the Keystone state, but it’s still mighty Black.
Blackness varies from culture to culture…what is Black in America is often not Black in other countries…may be “Coloured” in South Africa or “piel canela” in Latin America.
I’m not certain where “Blackness” is going, though.
I was raised in the 1970s-1980s and my consciousness was formed running excitedly to the neighbor to tell her someone Black was going to be on television. I had an afro in elementary school (and contrary to Dacia’s belief that …you just combed your hair- afros were TONS OF WORK!! — I had to wet my hair, braid it and then in the morning, unbraid and pick it!! ). We were eating groundnut stew and reconnecting to Africa as the whole continent was throwing off colonialism. We were thrilled with Soul Train. We discovered Bob Marley. Our parents were the first to get the same jobs at the same pay as whites. They stopped being maids. They were able to save and put us through school. Our cohort became Spike Lee, Mae Jemison, Will Smith, Don Cheadle.
Somehow that morphed into a generation of people who felt “limited” by their Blackness and I don’t see how that happened. But that’s a topic for another post.April 5, 2013 at 5:18 am #12044
Coqui Negra, please excuse the permissions issue with the doc, you should have full access. I mostly rant in the document, but have a look.
Second, thanks for your well thought and enlightening post. The Afro bit reminded me of my mom picking out my hair in the morning mission of “getting those naps out of that kitchen in the back of your head”, warm memories.
I really wonder if our (the royal we) perceptions of blackness differ along generational lines. I also grew up in the 70′s and 80′s and the power of decolonisation manifest in the Afro was strong globally. Was there a crisis of culture when the jerri curl (sic) was made popular in the south and west coast. Did we loose our grip when we started to drip?
I realise I am drifting off topic as your post was not on the politics of hair, rather , it raised salient questions about how youth may be limited by their identities, fascinating. I look forward to reading more……perhaps we will hear some other voices as well.April 5, 2013 at 5:27 am #12045
Some context: bell hooks on postmortem blackness————≥ http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Postmodern_Blackness_18270.html. ——–> From hooks: The idea that there is no meaningful connection between black experience and critical thinking about aesthetics or culture must be continually interrogated. ———–> Reading and studying writing to understand postmodernism in its multiple manifestations, I appreciate it but feel little inclination to ally myself with the academic hierarchy and exclusivity pervasive in the movement today.———–> The postmodern critique of “identity,” though relevant for renewed black liberation struggle, is often posed in ways that are problematicApril 5, 2013 at 10:46 am #12055
Well, i’m hoping some of the younger members of the community will comment, too.April 5, 2013 at 11:38 am #12057
https://www.msu.edu/~aaas/aaas300/ —–> africana online course from MSU covers…
What is Black/Africana Studies?
How can we understand Race as a core element of the global black experience?
How does the Western Hemispheric Trans Atlantic Slave Trade establilsh the Africana Diasporic World?
How can we make connections among colonialism, nationalism, civil rights, human rights as continuities and relevance of contemporary Blackworld politics?
What are the range of Black/Africana feminisms?April 5, 2013 at 4:33 pm #12070
Alex Jason WalkerMember
I’m 29 as of last week… so I may qualify as a younger member I dunno anymore lol… but I shape my culture of blackness as more from experience and forced perspective. Some background on my experiences… I grew up in the suburbs in the south(though in Memphis, predominantly black). I had white and black friends, went to a black elementary school, white middle and high scool(in fact those two schools were both named… White Station), went to a HBCU, then transferred to a white college because it was cheaper and closer to home. Though the surroundings in each particular level growing up were different, the black experience remained intact. Many times I have been the “token” negro in the room… and while I feel more comfortable in my own element now, there were times growing up where I felt more comfortable as the token than I would being in a room with all black people. My tolerance was not based on the color of my company, but moreso their interests, what they are doing, and do I want to be a part of it. I’m at an age now where I deeply enjoy being black in the south but yet a tad bit gentrified. I don’t watch BET. I enjoy bumping my hip hop and rap music in white neighborhoods sometimes and then I enjoy listening to my rock music loudly in black neighborhoods. I have my black friends try sushi, I have my white friends try soul food(even though they don’t always agree to do it lol). I enjoy breaking down the idea that all black people enjoy this music or that food. I enjoy changing opinions as a whole on perceptions about black people… on both sides. I argued with a black co worker of mine about whether or not the Beatles were lame. She said it was not “our type of music” I pleaded with her to just listen to one song of theirs before commenting. She did, and she in fact liked it.
As far as forced perspective goes, my black perspective was founded by my parents and grandparents, who were involved in the civil rights movement locally. My grandfather was one of the first black police officers in the city and faced heavy racism. My uncle got arrested in a sitin. My parents refuse to contribute any money to the University of Memphis because in a few classes they were told they couldn’t get an A because they were black. These stories affected obviously how they raised me and what they taught me. I’m proud of my family’s struggles and successes, but I think my early experience with my white friends helped me not to formulate an opinion on face value when it comes to other people. I’m blessed to not have to deal with those issues, but of course being in the south you can’t help but encounter racism to a degree. There is still the lament of not knowing my families’ origin beyond America, driving while black, how the legal system seems to be skewed against minorities, how white collar crime seems to be commonplace yet we get blamed for crime in America. And its good to know there are people that feel those pains with me and perceive things in a slightly different regard as a result. But it is what is, we are just trying to live. All we can do is maybe influence a person or two from time to time to debunk ignorant thoughts or ideals and get them realize we aren’t very different. There is a trailer park for every ghetto, a redneck for every person in the hood, and a honey boo boo for every flavor flav. And I think more people are realizing that… its just the ones that aren’t have a louder voice.
So basically… Blackness is just evolving… black geeks are emerging, black rock musicians, black golfers, tennis players, black everything. I think the best way to illustrate this evolution is with a phone call I had with my mom. She was visiting my grandparents and she called to tell me that the KKK were doing a rally downtown the same day I was to pick up my fiance from the megabus downtown. My Grandfather was very highly concerned, my mom was concerned enough to call just to let me know and tell me to be careful… and my fiance and I were both thinking “I wonder what time it starts, I wouldn’t mind checking that out.” lol… thats a small example of what influences blackness and the black experience, and I think there is such an environmental and cultural evolution of blackness that makes it hard to define from one person to the next.April 7, 2013 at 5:44 am #12169
Alex Jackson Walker your post was amazing. While there is over a decade in our age difference, our life experiences are quite similar. I also went to a HBCU and transferred to a local University. It seems we have similar cultural capital, thanks to our families. Are we representative of a generation of black people that Eugene Robinson may dub the forgotten middle class? Or in an American construct social strata formed by race, may not allow for full middle class privilege? Or does the American class system even apply to black people? Has class shaped our blackness? The tacit question is…. What is blackness?April 8, 2013 at 11:00 am #12231
Alex, I’m going to push back a little bit on your “Black geeks are evolving..” comment and point out that there have been Black geeks in every generation. I was a Black geek. in the 1970s I was blowing up shit in my basement and conducting biological experiments.
May Jemison was a Black geek, George Washington Carver was a Black geek,
Daniel Hale Williams was a Black geek , Percy Julian was a Black geek.
Althea Gibson was playing tennis in the 1950s….Charles Sifford was golfing int the 1960s.
We’ve always done what everyone else has done, but the earlier generations have been punished for it…
now the new generation comes along and piles on….April 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm #12240
Miss Negra you are right black nerds go back 150,000 years. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/Ancient-Africa/lebombo.html and these folks. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/madhist.html we have a long history of being smart. But what is blackness? Why would being smart, Alex be not so black? Is it media images or do we see ourselves as brutes? I do not buy the brute bit, but my dad always called me a bog ol’ runaway slave, and I took it as a compliment on my physique. Blackness and power seem to be closely related. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/madgreatest.htmlApril 8, 2013 at 4:16 pm #12241
bloody live links need to work here. http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/Ancient-Africa/index.htmlApril 8, 2013 at 5:20 pm #12245
I am 29 yrs old, born and raised in Alabama’s Black Belt near Tuskegee University. I share a birthplace with Rosa Parks and grew up in the birthplace of Dr. John Henrik Clarke. My concept of blackness was shaped by the elders of my maternal and paternal family. Each side has a number of teachers so they talked with and taught us about being black, our history (including our family history) and took us to places that had direct connections to blackness. The public school system I graduated from is over 70% Black (white students attend private schools outside the county).April 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm #12252
Alex Jason WalkerMember
Coqui I feel you on that. I didn’t mean black geeks didn’t exist until recently. What I meant by black geeks are emerging is that we are becoming more recognized nationally as a subculture/genre… That there are not just a handful of geeks throughout time but there are a lot of us now. This emergence forces media to look at and target us and instead of being a smart black guy or “black guy who is not a thug,” or “a good one” as I’ve been called… :smh: I am a geek who happens to be black, changing the discussion and the perception a bit. But keep in mind also being a geek doesn’t necessarily mean you are smart, you can be geeky about anything. But basically the more “not a thug” categories we are perceived in the better.
And Locdog I most certainly think the American class system applies to black people. It applies to all Americans though I think it would hit or affect people differently based on their culutural background and how defined it is in the person. I rep being a “sutherna” as much as I do being black, and I’m certain that is a lot easier to do today than it was 40 years ago. Thats what I mean by an evolution of blackness… our thought patterns are changing because our environments are changing. I’m quite curious about what my future kid would say about this when he/she is of age. But I think in every age, American blackness(I think the spirit of this thread suggests American black people and not say… German) is how we as black people in this country are perceived and how we perceive and respond to our environment. It will always be different from the normal American perspective to a degree, and it will differ from one experience to the next. In this regard really you could say in the same breath what is American Hispanicness, or Asianness? The short answer is: Its a broad concept more beneficial theoretically or philosophically than it would be defined.April 9, 2013 at 10:26 am #12308
And I would argue that “not a thug” is also an outside identity that we have had thrust upon us. Now, i’m from a small town (<80,000), but we had projects and there were certainly people who questioned “Blackness”, but it’n not like they had a whole lot of sway…Our families and communities wanted us to learn and do better than they had. They tried to provide opportunities they didn’t have. i know my mother signed me up for every damn thing, looking for something I might like. Don’t parents still want their kids to do better?
But i digress, Alex.
I must wonder what is the urgent need to carve out another whole community/identity of “Smart Black/Nerd Black” ..? It’s like saying that you have bought into the idea that Blackness must be thug and have ceded our community. That leaves me scratching my head. Especially since that thug life identity is only about 20 years old and is fueled by the entertainment industry, largely.April 9, 2013 at 11:37 am #12313
The not a thug classification is a part of a campaign of manufacturing consent in the media in the era of postmodern blackness. Industry moving overseas, combined with urbanisation and highlighted by the aids and crack epidemic culminating in the rise of the black imprisoned population have help to create a meme of the black thug. This also happened with the introduction of the fugitive slave act and was counteracted by northern migration and the Harlem Renaissance, DuBois’ NAACP and ending with the civil rights era. We seem to have repeated am cycle. In this new cycle how do we define blackness?
Also Trojan thanks for your input, from your post I had a question, does blackness require isolation. You mentioned having a somewhat segregated experience in school. Did that help to define blackness? I ask as a person who grew up in the north in de-facto segregated communities and schools..but socialised and maintained a diverse group of friends. In short where does blackness happen? I also ask as a current resident of the UK, where here and I Europe blackness is different and less related to American understandings. Our large African population differs among itself on what is black or African. Is it melanin, if so what does that mean for the one drop rule, is it location where one is raised black, what is it?
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