A Recurring Query
stated my soon-to-be seventeen-year-old student in a desperate attempting to portray a conspicuously scripted conversation as natural.
I felt a familiar feeling that foreshadowed where this conversation would go. So, I silently exhaled and tried to relax my muscles from an anticipated tension.
“Are you mixed with Indian or anything?” she asked in a fictive coyness that made my blood boil.
There it was. The dreaded query that appeared far too many times throughout my adulthood.
“No, girl I’m African” I said trying to hide my disappointment.
“Oh, so you’re just black?”
I’ll be honest. I am not sure if I asked or if she volunteered the information that I am about to share. But either way, I was hopeful that her follow-up would yield a hidden Pan-Africanism.
“I’m Guyanese, well South American, Jamaican, Bajan, and English. I say all four because I’m not just one”
This “just one” phrase would prove a recurring phrase in the conversations surrounding black identity that would dominate my week.
Seeking another perspective, I requested the input of a colleague who I falsely compartmentalized as a “free African,” or an someone well on their way to a collective identity.
I asked my colleague how she thought Caribbean displacement affects black identity. The response, while elaborate and beautifully articulated, mirrored my student’s, but proved even more disappointing.
In summary, the “clarity” offered by my colleague, validated my student’s logic with a series of short-sighted remarks that revealed an ideology polluted with the subtle teachings of white supremacy.
Achieving Exotic Status, and The Singularity of Blackness
My colleague reiterated the “just one” phrase implemented by my student stating that it is white supremacy that coerces the black “American” to choose “one thing.” She then went on to say that Caribbean identity embraces the “totality” of their being, ie what my student in mentioning “Barbados,” “Guyana” and “England.” She also was sure to reference what she called the diversity of Caribbean aesthetics, a claim I’ve heard countless times in the boastful stupor of the oppressed.
.The variants of aesthetics is one of the many gifts of blackness, and is not limited to just one sub-group. Moreover, this comment is upsetting for many reasons, but mostly in exposing the true nature of the ideology from which it derived. Fractioned identity, is not pride, but an anti-black act guised as nationalism. This nationalism, seduces the decedents of Caribbean (or any other diasporic ethnicity) slaves to view their “drop-off” as “home” and to see their ability to have a “home” and “language” as superior to that of the non-migrant black in the states–who migrants seek to appropriate in their consensual journey over the same seas that carried their brethren who would be lynched, burned alive, castrated, raped, dismembered and systemically disenfranchised for centuries prior to the influx of Caribbean immigrants who would reap the benefits of their pain. I find it imperative to make this assertion, as diasporic Africans often highlight the struggle in their pseudo homelands as singular, discounting “struggle” as an experience shared by all blacks. Struggle, tragedy, and cyclical systemization is an integral component to black identity, but despite being a uniting factor, white oppressors implement black struggle as a weapon to circumvent black concord.
This concord is a worthy compromise for those seeking an ex-factor through a fictive multi-ethnic identity. To be fair, this is not solely limited to melanated migrants, but millions of blacks across the diaspora bamboozled into believing that black is everything but beautiful. The melanated migrant though bears a poisonous and often under-discussed desire to become the abducted African displaced in America in record numbers. While there are some non-migrant blacks who have moved to the continent or the West Indies, these numbers pale in comparison to the amount of blacks from the continent, the West Indies, the Caribbean, and South and Central America who inundate the black population in places like New York City.
Also inundating the flourishing population of the migrant black in places like the big apple is a systemized envy of non- migrant black aesthetics. Namely, those bearing the unsullied blood of the motherland, or its envy a demographic who embodies the remnants of wombs legally violated by a system who conceptualized the black body as property. For example, I recall a young black male college student recall his peers from the continent commenting, in a state of awe, on how different his hair was in comparison to theirs–citing his”looser coil” as a divisive factor.
On the reverse, I have seen and experienced the tokenizing of non-migrant black beauty by the melanated migrant. I would like to clarify that although using the term “beauty” I do not mean that the referenced individual is beautiful (we as a collective are beautiful), but that an oppressed gaze would perceive a diluted bloodline as beautiful in a self-hatred stupor. As a college student , for the most part, students from the Caribbean and the continent did not engage with the general population of those who were presumed to be “just black.” At the dating auctions that schools clubs held to make money, the melanated migrant would show up in large groups and “purchase” the non-mirgant black women who they refused to acknowledge on campus. Similarly, I have had instances where I was inappropriately touched by migrant males who seemed to perceive my body with the same entitlement and disregard as white men. I have also witnessed migrant women engage sexually with migrant men who refused to acknowledge them in public when alongside those they perceived to be kin. These scenarios, mirror a similar ideology to that of my student and colleague, illustrating the various hurtful consequences imbued by a divisive ideology. Moreover, the intoxication of the abducted African displaced in the states seemingly offsets both an internalized envy and objectification in its divisive function–sometimes both symptoms occurring simultaneously.
There is also an envy of access. By access I mean access to whiteness. Although systemically disenfranchised by whites who own million dollar resorts miles away from children without clothes, and families without shoes or food, few migrant blacks seem to associate their lifestyle, or what prompts their move to the states, as a direct result of white supremacy. It seems their predominately black environment allows many melanated migrants to attribute their disenfranchised state to this dynamic and not the seemingly invisible whites who sit unbothered at the height of every hierarchy throughout the black diaspora. Thus, the abducted Africans displaced into the states, appear to be at an advantage in what must appear to be a closer access to white people and an illusive whiteness seemingly consummated through job titles and material goods.
Identity: Claiming Constructs
It is whiteness, and the journey towards it in material, aesthetics, and accolades, that thwarts black unity. My colleague plots curing white control of blackness by celebrating what I reference as the “drop off.” She finds solstice in Haiti, and suggests that non-migrant blacks do the same for America. The conversation as a whole was a hard pill to swallow, but this statement was the most problematic and most hurtful. To possess a sense of nationalism for a drop-off is to claim a land that has never claimed you but enslaved you and grown crops and trust funds in the blood of your ancestors.
It is the failure to look past the “drop off” that incites the disappointment in my student, colleague, and others that take pride in their oppressive placement. For a black to claim America, or a West Indian to claim a West Indian or Caribbean Country, or black displaced in Brazil to claim Brazil, or the countless blacks displaced in Latin America to claim their respective drop off, is to inadvertently thank the white settlers for ripping you from the womb of your mother continent and casting you in a systemized role necessary to manifest their destiny. To claim a drop-off is to make Willie Lynch and every white man who taught and practiced the science of oppression proud in the longevity of their cruel creation of system that destroys the the kryptonite to white global domination–black unity and a collective pride. Acknowledging a collective identity does not function to denounce anything. Rather, it is a proclamation of collective pride. In acknowledging a collective identity it is imperative to note that although I may check “African American” on applications, I understand that I am not an American.
In contemplating the words of my student and colleague, my mind reverts back to a moment from my past when an exchange student from the West Indies, on a Pan-Africanist panel, spoke about his desire to acknowledge his Scottish and Asian origins. His response was an obvious attempt to escape what he perceived as the singularity of blackness. But he, in a systemized ethnic state, saw his assertion as acknowledging all parts of self. I remember the guest speaker walking out in a disappointment that festered into disgust. The young man who made this statement sat bewildered in a bubble of ignorance he saw as a window to a complete identity. This example illustrates the height of a systemized mind, so systemized that like my student and colleague, he saw his comments as innocuous and not for the portrait of self-hatred that it was.
Asians, Latinos, Indians and whites do not claim blacks. They may dig up some black blood to obtain a scholarship or some other benefit, but other groups do not fraction their identity in the same way as blacks because overall they do not suffer from a lack of nationalism in the way we do. An Asian person may be Korean and may not even like his Chinese or Thai counterparts, but this does not stop him from functioning as an Asian. Not that blacks should emulate other groups, but to embrace our idiosyncrasies and still function as one, posits a crucial step towards a collective advancement .
The black collective can not afford to have anyone who sees him or herself as equally black and white or black and Indian, or anything else, because of an articulated inability to fully devote themselves to the interests of the black collective. If you won’t even say black, it’s highly unlikely that you will act or think in the best interest of the black collective in a moment of conflict.
I also admit that while asserting that those who claim a drop-off are claiming those that do not claim them, I am doing the same thing in my wish for diasporic Africans to claim a black identity. In claiming South America, Barbados, and England, this young lady is not claiming black— a fact that becomes obvious in her compartmentalizing blackness as singular.
Although I do hope that one day all blacks will see the beauty of a black identity, I accept that that day is not today. I understand that it is easier to accept the drop-off, so that your mind remains comforted with what you’ve been nurtured to perceive as an upper hand and a one-way ticket to an exotic identity. For the melanated migrant, who wishes to appropriate the non-migrant black’s oppression, claiming the drop-off is their ticket to consummate whiteness. To those whose mentality is a systemic masterpiece of global colonialism, a fictive plurality works as a means to layer what is perceived as a singularity of blackness.
Ethnicity: A Cancer Construct
Before AIDS and various cancers from stomach to brain consumed the lives of so many Africans throughout the diaspora, the cancer of ethnicity and “difference” gradually expunged onto the black diaspora. This cancer repeatedly split the black identity so that members of the collective, with the same Kemtian blood running through their veins would fail to claim their own people, due to speaking different languages or socially identifying with an ethnic group that stood away from blackness.
To those set on exotifying their existence with the cancerous sub- identities created by our oppressors, “unity” seems stifling. To those seeking “difference” this “unity” appears an effort to erase what is unique about what they falsely perceive as their culture. Black identity is the exact opposite. Blackness is never and could never be just one thing. To be black is to bear a rich and endless legacy of everything black—to bear the multi-layered identity of a shared experience.
To be completely honest, I fail to see anything wrong with being one thing, if that one thing is black.
As Broken as The Sphinx’s Nose: A Systemized Suffocation
The Sphinx’s nose, seemingly one thing, symbolizes the power in a singular entity essential to identity. Namely, the Sphinx’s broken nose functions to “fix” the black collective into a state of constant confusion. The broken nose symbolizes the severed African diaspora. As a symbol of Kemetian brilliance and African majesty, it’s destruction at the hands of whites illustrates the power of destroying a single entity has on a collective. The African nose represents blackness, that in its distorted state, suffocates the collective into an induced oppression that simultaneously murders black unity. The Sphinx now functions to substantiate the white supremacist act of removing Kemet from Africa and displacing it into the fictive “Middle East” to denounce that the original inhabitants were indeed black. Without this nose, the diaspora endures a systemic smothering into an ambiguity that furthers white mental and physical domination.
It is because of this pervasive domination of whiteness that I do not support black migration. I am not against blacks being greater in number and in increased proximity between diasporic Africans, but in North America particularly, migrant entry and access functions to fester the necessary ethnic division to retain anti-blackness.
Migrant entry and access throws salt in the wound of an already divided and mentally enslaved people. White supremacists have used the diaspora of displaced and divided Africans to fatally infect the gaping wound of white supremacy. The placement of our misguided brethren alongside systemized kinfolk of a similarly distorted mindset only increases our plight to navigate our way through the global labyrinth of racism.
Moreover, I am against how migrant entry of access impedes black advancement. Thus, while I have never seen the physical void of the Sphinx’s nose, I felt the lack of air in conversation with both my student and colleague. I feel the lack of air when I hear any person of African ancestry dismember their identity into fractions. I feel the lack of air when I observe diasporic Africans see themselves in those from the same drop-off but not from the same mother.
The migrant black, like the black student who can “graduate” school without knowing how to read, like the black who works hard for a check that goes right back to their oppressors through bills, rent and careless splurges, illustrates the perils of racism and how racism makes all that could be good tragic for black people throughout the diaspora. Black migration could function under a Pan-African initiative in which blacks pursue blackness and shed pseudo nationalism for a black nationalism.
Yes we’ve been fortunate enough to have the incomparable contributions of Kwame Ture, Harry Belefonte, Claude McKay, and countless others who represent the potential for black unity. Their Pan-Africanist initiatives encompass the hope and dream of those who understand the strategic methods that seek to destroy the black collective.
Divided we suffocate.
Together we figuratively reassemble the mutilated nose of Sphinx.
Together we reassemble a black identity mangled in the fiction of ethnicity.
Together we breathe as a single identity of a shared origin and shared experience.
I Am EVERY Black
It is for this reason that I embrace all folds, experiences, and identities of blackness.
My identity has little to do with my individual experience and everything to do with a collective understanding. I didn’t have to be physically alongside Michael Griffith when he was chased by young white men from Howard Beach in the late 1980s. Blackness is a shared experience, so just as I am Michael Griffith as he ran for his life, I am also Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they sprinted towards black nationalism in the 1968 Olympics.
I am the black body that feels the breeze of the Nile river in the early morning and early evening. I am the Kenyan, the Jamaican, the Brazilian, the Honduran. I am the domestic worker that traveled north for a “better” life but found that the north not only bears colder air but the cold wrath of covert oppression. I am Harriet Tubman in my moments of fearlessness, I am Fanny Lou Hamer—hollowed by white evil but full of African valor, I am Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Katherine Dunham, Fredi Washington, Winnie Mandela, Edwidge Danticat and every other black Woman across the diaspora who has tried to make something out of the nothing handed to us by our white oppressors.
It is the journey to consciousness, or the mental pilgrimage to an indigenous state that prompts an ability to confront the oppression of division.
Furthermore, I do not separate myself from any black regardless of circumstance or their placement throughout the diaspora. I stand beside them.
“I” is of course not me the individual but a collective identity that intertwines the past, present, and future of the black collective.
I also want to emphasize that the word “black” is not a phrase that I use lightly. To be black is not about having black skin, but identifying as black. To be conscious is to resist the urge to claim those who refuse to claim your collective. I accept their denial, and do not compartmentalize them as black-but continue to see their melanin as redeeming and hope for a change of heart. This is how I will make peace with the diasporic demons that steer my kinfolk into a divisive lunacy that functions solely to benefit whites and other groups that seek to exploit what Neely Fuller labeled “the shattered consciousness and fractured identity” of black people.
So to answer the query that inspired this post, No, I’m not “mixed with Indian or anything like that.” I am a diasporic black woman that embrace all forms of herself from Brazil to Africa to Latin America to the Caribbean.
I am everything the world works to ensure I am not: Black and proud.
I am Every Black person and every black experience and every black person and every black experience is me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this family!
Black Power ❤