how do you define your blackness?

Last night at a friend’s house we were having a conversation about a certain show on TBS that happened to be written, directed, and produced by a black man.

Sepia: This show is setting us back. Like thousands of years. If this is the definition white people have of black people, we’re in trouble.

Friend1: If a white person, or any other person for that matter, defines an entire race of people based upon one television show, they’re racist! Don’t get me wrong, there’s no more Cosby on tv, but the representation we have isn’t that bad.

Sepia: There are only like three shows on television with a majority black cast. Besides reality television, we have Tracey Morgan (on 30 Rock), Yvette Nicole Brown (on Community), the cast of The Game, and a handful of us on crime/detective shows. No one on tv represents me.

Friend 1: You’re asking for too much, Sepia.

Am I really?

Having studied Sociology in undergrad and always being told I was “pretty for a dark-skinned girl” I’ve been one to pay attention to the representation of my people on television.

I don’t watch tv all too often, but when I do I realize that I’m not represented. In relation to the population, maybe, but overall, there aren’t many black women on television.

With that being said, this makes me wonder about other people’s races’ definition of what a black woman is.

Today, the first day of Black History Month, brings about a sense of pride for me. I fluffed out my fro extra big today and I’m wearing a kente patterned belt over my dress. Before I start brainwashing my students with the district-mandated information on FCAT teaching my lesson, I’ll be sure to tell them about a notable Black mathematician.

When my students aren’t paying attention, I’ll jokingly say, “Please look at the black woman in the front of the classroom.”
But what about me defines my blackness?

Is it my skin? My nose? My voice? My hair?

I am a black woman but what’s my own personal definition?
I was raised in Opa-Locka, Florida (or Miami Gardens, or Miami for the out of towners). Not quite the inner city but far from the suburbs.
I stayed inside a lot; escaping in characters in books that took me places far beyond 152nd street.
I could barely relate to the kids in my neighborhood. With the exception of my sister and longtime childhood friend, I barely spoke to anyone.

While we lived in the same neighborhood, my vision always carried me someplace different. Not better; just not as bad. A place where I wasn’t teased for being smart or told I was “acting white” because I did my homework. In this place, I was black, but I was also just [Sepia].

Today, I define myself as black. Not African-American yet because I’ve never been there. I have no ties to Africa. My mother’s family is from Georgia and Florida with traces of Cherokee Indian. Though I didn’t inherit the wavy hair or red clay skin like my mom and older sister, it’s still part of me. My father’s family is from Georgia (dad) and The Bahamas (mom). I’m very much connected to that even though I’ve never been, my grandmother prepared meals that took me there. She told me stories about a place I’ll visit this year on my birthday, Lord willing.

While I identify as a black woman there are so many women I can not relate to. The woman who leaves her house wearing a satin bonnet. The woman who stays at home waiting for a check. The woman who hates black men. The woman who despises every other woman her children’s father has or will ever date. The woman who will tell you you’re not better than her because you went to college. The woman who without a doubt hates you just because you’re black.

See, my definition of being a black woman is simply being me. My mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, mentors are all black women. They embody perfect strength and God’s love. They are the vision of what sacrifice looks like and they walk with pride. They carry their heads high without looking down upon others. They have a quiet confidence and always speak an encouraging word. They are black women.

On today, the first day of Black History Month, I salute the black women in my life and I thank God for making me a powerful, beautiful, intelligent BLACK WOMAN!!!!

How do you define your black woman-ness?


2 thoughts on “Definition

  1. 2blu2btru says:

    I think the best definition of Black-ness for me is double consciousness: I’m always aware that people are classifying me by the fact that I am a certain color, closing me off from the rest of the group in a way, while also being part of the “group” in that I live and work with them and don’t fit the definition they have of a Black Woman. I am a Black woman who is almost always smiling and optimistic, loves to read, uses big words appropriately, and is, for the most part, quiet and reserved. I am nearly twenty-six with no children at all. They don’t know how to process these facts in light of my “Black-ness.”

    There isn’t any representation of the person that I am on TV or in the news. There are few representations of the person I strive to be (I can see myself being likened to a Michelle Obama or Maya Angelou as time progresses, LOL). Part of the reason I strive to write and create art is to put for images that are more representative of my Blackness, my reality. Maybe that television show’s creator is positing their version of their Blackness, but people need to understand there is no all encompassing definition of Blackness. We are always trying to quantify something and give it shape and definition because the fluidity frightens us.

    *drops the mic*
    *steps off soapbox*

    Great post! 😀

  2. Marq Von says:

    Great post! It’s funny how you were talking about the lack of television shows with a cast of majority AA. I had this same conversation a couple weeks ago. Remember the days when we had shows like In Living Color, Living Single, Arsenio Hall Show and Martin to a name a few? Although they were quite controversial, I could at least identify with some of the characters in one way or the other. It saddens me to see the shows that now exist… suck. Let’s just be honest here, they suck and sometimes I wonder if we’re going back to the days of putting on minstrel shows.

    Back to your question:
    What define my black woman-ness? 1. My inner strength to go on and face a world that places me at the bottom of the totem pole. I strive to face the world and succeed everyday although I’m aware that the game is set up for me to lose. There is no other woman in this world besides a black woman that embodies such strength. [Real TALK] 2. My hair, yes I said it, MY HAIR. I can rock a tight fro today, blown out fluffy fro the next or a pressed out straight the day after. I’m proud of the versatility of my hair and it’s because I AM A BLACK WOMAN. 3. Last but not least, the God within. I truly believe that AA’s are truly spiritual beings (NOT SAYING THAT OTHER RACES ARE NOT SPIRITUAL) and that they have a special connection with God and this is the reason why we can live on despite of all the hardships we face.
    Ok that’s it. I’m done. Glad to see you’re posting on a regular basis.

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