What is Black? Part 1

Please Black People Ask God to Help Us Stick T...

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

It’s a shame that in 2011 race is still an issue in the United States.  What’s even more of a shame is that Black people are still finding ways to tear each other down, ridicule each other, and find ways to separate us, based on skin color, our neighborhoods, and our familial backgrounds.  I’ve come across multiple articles within the past week that discuss race within the Black community.  A few weeks ago, my book club read “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America” by Eugene Robinson.   I’m sure we’re all familiar with the comments Jalen Rose made regarding Grant Hill and other Duke University basketball players during the documentary “Fab Five”.  “Clutch” magazine had an article titled “What Kind of Black are You?“.  And lastly, “Coco and Creme“, another on-line magazine, had an article titled “Do Mixed Chicks Hair Care Products Make Light Seem Right?”.  Because I have a lot to say, this will be (at least) a two-parter.

First, let’s discuss what is Black.  Black is beautiful, successful, strong, educated, resilient, historic, amazing, wonderful, insightful…I could go on.  What I don’t understand is why we, Black folk, continue to find ways to divide ourselves.  Some think you’re not Black enough if you use proper English.  Others think you’re not Black enough if you do well in school.  You might be too Black if you wear your pants hanging from your tail.  Too Black may include having locs or being natural.  All of these things are ridiculous.  Growing up, most of my friends in school were white, and I got ridiculed by some of the Black kids; I got told things like “You talk like a white girl”, “Is everything all white?”, and my personal favorite (a message in my middle school yearbook) “Oreo, I hope you unlock the magic this summer.”  Yes, kids are cruel, and we hope they don’t grow up to be cruel adults.  Having an education has always been synomous with being an “Uncle Tom” or acting white or not being Black enough.  Why is that?  Why is it cool to not do well in school?  Although Southern parents divorced when I was young, both parents were, and still are, involved in my life and made sure I did well in school.  Both parents are college educated so going to college wasn’t a question for me-the question was, “Where are you going?”  But I digress…

Why must we separate ourselves?  The author of “What Kind of Black Are You” and Robinson address the various “sub-groups” in Black America, those Blacks who are from the Carribean or Africa.  I strongly believe in embracing your culture and your country of origin if you’re not American, but why must we belittle others who aren’t like us, which happens at times?  Black people come in all hues, shapes, sizes, cultures, and the like, so we should embrace our differences, but not go so far as to demean someone who’s not EXACTLY like us.  I love my Southern heritage, but embrace those Blacks who are African, Caribbean, Northern, and wherever else they may be from.

That’s it for Part 1.  What do you guys think?  Why are we still finding ways to separate ourselves as Black people?  Is this all this still relevant in 2011 or should we find ways to bring ourselves together as one race?  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!


  1. Before Black people were brought to America, the British imperialists employed divide and conquer strategies to cause constant Black-on-Black fighting. When we were forced to come to America through the slave trade, the divide and conquer impact still persisted. Even when you look at the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, you see Black-on-Black fighting going on. Look at our postmodern scene: Through Hip-Hop, you get to see the divide and conquer strategy still persisting through Tupac and Biggie fighting and now Nicki and Lil Kim fighting. Imperialists and racists have socially conditioned us to separate ourselves from one another. Many of us have not resisted the lasting effects of the divide and conquer strategy, and this is why we continue to suffer from self-defeating and self-exploitative practices in the Black community. Excellent post! I look forward to Part II.

  2. The reason why Black Americans continue to look for ways to divide ourselves is because that’s what is taught in the American culture. It happens in the education system when students are split in special education, regular, college prep, and gifted. It happens in the selection of colleges/universities we decided upon. Those that have open enrollment versus those with selective enrollment. As much as people living in America like to talk about the “American dream”, that dream is not the same for everyone. Since we are subjected to exclusive practices outside of our communities by the majority, we tend to inflict some of those same exclusive practices in our minority community. Now realistically speaking, no oppressed, suppressed minority should be trying to limit their already small circle. I for one know that you never know who holds your blessing. We (as in minority groups) aren’t fortunate enough to be broad enough that we can shut out people and not encounter them in the future. The question you ask, why do people chose to separate themselves is to show the people they want to assimilate to that they are different and they want to make a stark difference. For example… In the DMV… If I said PG Black Family versus Montgomery County Black Family, the average person would have deduced an idea of the make up of those 2 families. Or a black couple living in Maryland versus those living in Northern Virginia. As the American quilt of cultures become more expansive and more integrated, the more people want to carve out their individualism. ie influx of white rappers and r&b artists or a black easy listening artist. For one… I am hopeful that we are about bringing everyone together within the human race. Forgetting about the small differences in hues, respecting those that are different, and just living your life to the best potential possible without negatively affecting anyone else. :-/ Can we just come together 🙂

  3. When I made good grades in school, I was never called any of the names you mentioned. Nevertheless, I see where you are coming from. I, like you, grew up in the South. I have seen our people say things like “light skin girls are stuck up” and “dark skin dudes are thugs.” It’s unfortunate, but I cannot see the aforementioned ignorant beliefs coming to an end in our lifetime.

    It should be noted that Americans of all races and backgrounds LOVE to separate themselves from others within and outside of their race. We are a country of separatists.

  4. Black America is still experiencing growing pains. In the past 40 years, our conditions in this country have shifted dramatically. While many have prospered most have not, and that creates tension.

    I agree with Asimpleview. That is the American way. It is no accident that the increased levels of fragmentation we’re seeing in Black America correlates to escalating income inequality. Capitalist society is built on focusing on what separates us instead of what unites us.

  5. Pingback: What is Black? Part 2 « Southern Girl in the City

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