So just in case you haven’t heard there is an amazing new movie that is blooming out of Sundance , aptly titled, Dear White People. I won’t go in-depth with this movie, but what I will tell you is that it seems like its going to be the perfect embodiment of an unspoken definition of “blackness” today, with all of it’s faces, all wrapped up in the perfect microcosm of an ivy league school. And I do mean perfect microcosm in the sense that it portrays a community dominated by a White superpower. I’m really excited to get a hold of this movie, but it prompted me to think again about my own experience growing up against the “white wall”. I’ve always loved informing people that I in fact did not grow up “tragically colored”. I, like Zora was proud of the fact that I stuck out among my White peers,
excelling and proudly representing my race; but recently I was having a conversation with one of my White peers and somewhere in our mix of words, she uttered the phrase “Well, I mean you’re only technically Black.” It took me a minute to bounce back from that statement and very politely end the conversation, because here’s what was going through my head: What the hell is “technically Black”? After some careful consideration I came to the conclusion that she meant I was only Black by virtue of the color of my skin. Now in my head this could go one of two ways. On the one hand it seems as if this is a masterful breakthrough in race relations where a White person has realized that race is really just a performative, disciplinary, action based on self-created social order (bear with me I know Foucault is a mouthful). On the other hand, and what I believe to be the more accurate reason, there stood the idea that a Black person who succeeds and even surpasses a White person in something that is not singing, dancing, or sports has somehow found a way to “escape” the daunting oppression of their own blackness! So essentially I am so very lovingly stripped of my “accursed Blackness” by my White peers in an effort to comfort them into the belief that I do not concede to an existence as a Black person because I’m intelligent. My intelligence excuses my Blackness as if it is some sort of accursed chip on my shoulder that only non-Black people have the power to remove. Where do I even really start with this? First of all, this to me is like when people tell me they don’t even see color; contrary to popular belief, this is the rudest statement ever. You should see race, because acting as if you don’t see it brings about situations like this, where one tries to strip you of your race as a result of a characteristic. My skin is Black, that will never change, the end. So to imply that you will recognize my intelligence in spite of my race is such a spit in the face it isn’t even funny. I’m not smart… for a Black girl. I’m smart; Period. It’s times like this that I get frustrated when I hear my Black peers say something like.. well I’m only Black because of my skin. While I wholeheartedly agree that you are not defined by the color of your skin, I also staunchly advocate for the recognition that the color you carry holds a deep, painful, beautiful history. So to chalk up your Blackness to simply the color of your skin is the greatest disservice you can do yourself. With Black History Month right around the corner you should gear yourself up for the firestorm of sympathetic statements from White people in an effort to make an apology to your entire race. My advice, don’t just brush past the statements. Listen to it, analyze, because what they say speaks volumes about how they perceive you as a representation of your race. Are you going to like the reality?