Does My Blackness Offend You? Too Bad.5/02/2015
by Brittany Dawson Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a revitalization in Black Pride. What’s even more refreshing is the validation ...
by Brittany Dawson
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a revitalization in Black Pride. What’s even more refreshing is the validation of women of color. Black Girls ROCK! and My Black Is Beautiful are just two of many organizations and movements aimed to give the experiences of Black women a fighting chance against Eurocentrism.
If you scroll around Tumblr, YouTube, or Twitter, you’ll be amazed at the unbendable pride of our sisters. Natural hair aficionados eagerly share their curl pattern secrets to women who’ve been told chemically processed hair is the only way to achieve true beauty. Plus-size women of color provide flattering wardrobe alternatives to those who rarely see their body types reflected in seasonal lookbooks. LGBTQIA+ folks courageously share their experiences in the blossoming world of indie film, captivating audiences worldwide with raw stories of strength.
But with any change comes an inevitable pushback. Nowadays, there is a far-reaching hesitance towards expressions of Black Pride. Black Pride is either categorized as divisive, militant, or—as of recently—“racist”. Let me break it down really quick: Since Whiteness has been used to debase and malign other cultures, people attribute racial/ethnic pride as an exclusive practice when in reality, its main focus centers on providing a counterstory to negative expectations surrounding those experiences.
Remember, Blackness is only defined as dangerous because Whiteness has been the only lauded model for everything.
Last time I checked, Blackness hasn’t been used to define other experiences.
We’ve been socialized to accept Whiteness as the “normalized” identity. Black Pride simply questions this practice and rewires power back to where it belongs: in our own hands and not as a direct result of Whiteness.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Who in their right mind would question Black Pride?” Quite a few actually. In fact, an encounter with a neighbor and a classmate last week embodies the very resistance I warned about.
On my way to campus, I was approached by a cantankerous man. Let’s call him Petty Ricky. As would many 20-somethings, I listen to music at a moderate volume with the windows rolled down punctuated by the heavy thrums of bass. Apparently my Keyshia Cole and Kendrick Lamar were too much.
When I pulled up to the stop sign, Petty Ricky flagged me down with his stick. Slightly suspicious, I rolled the window down to a fuming man whose face was beet red, mainly by the South Carolina sun and partly due to my choice in tunes.
“Your music is TOO LOUD!” he croaked, pounding the heavy stick on the pavement. Petty Ricky’s teeth were clenched. Words barely escaped his mouth.
I didn’t say a word.
"Keep your Black music to yourself!” he yelled.
He tried it. This man really tried me! I thought. We stared in silence as I gave off the meanest side eye in the history of histories.
Would Petty Ricky leave me alone if I played so called “non-Black music” to his liking, like Metallica or Pantera? Why is my music problematic?
It all made sense to me: My unapologetic Blackness—whether in terms of music, art, or literature—is intimidating.
I pumped the gas and sped off, annoyed that my so called “Black music” was an issue.
Fast forward to the following Tuesday. I had a conversation with a classmate on the frustrations of being a person of color in education.
"Maybe if you'd...you know, chill a bit on the Black Pride stuff people will feel comfortable."
Huh? Did she have coffee with Petty Ricky or something? This girl was clueless. And making matters worse, I knew her comments came from a place of discomfort.
I've been mulling over the difficulty of showcasing Black Pride without being called militant, anti-White, or un-American. I’ve found it nearly impossible to accomplish. What's clear is that regardless of how I showcase my Blackness, we are expected to interact with our identity to make talks of race and oppression more digestible for people who are uncomfortable.
Don't expect me to hide my love for Black feminist intellectuals like Audre Lorde and Barbara Smith in place of muddled Arquettian feminism.
No, I won't stop listening to Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michele, or Janelle Monae because they are “too Black”.
No, I won’t put away my Black icon t-shirts, hide my African earrings, or stop reading literature from my people.
What part of Black girls are magic don't you understand?
I am all my sisters' wisdom, my brothers' courage, my Diaspora's complexity. Expecting Black women to soften our pride only confirms why I purposefully seek to showcase it.
Sorry, but I'm not here to make my Blackness cute for you.
You can't silence my Blackness and you won't dismiss my pride. My Black will always remain beautiful regardless if you decide to see it.
Brittany Dawson is a regular contributor at For Harriet. She is a senior at the University of South Carolina who is passionate about equality, social justice, and education. You may follow her on Twitter: @BrittanyJDawson.