i just finished reading this article about African identity in contrast and opposition to African American identity, specifically for Africans living in the US. i did a project for a conference at my school a year or so ago on this topic, attempting to analyze these feelings about identities, which was interesting. the nuanced ways that one’s identity can be manipulated and molded by others is quite interesting, and a but scary as well. in trying to prove who you are, or “be you”, you end up being someone you aren’t. being “you” (whatever that is) is truly one of the most difficult things one can do (especially is you’re a poc), and it is a constant battle.
one sis i interviewed (for my project), who was from Zimbabwe but raised mostly in the US, shared with me the ways in which her family strongly policed her wardrobe, speech, and career, etc. in a racial and gendered manner, that was always so as to not be mistaken as African American. i realized as she spoke that they weren’t just her family’s views, but hers as well: “well, African American women are…you know…really loud, they have multiple fathers for their children and they wear revealing clothing. that’s not African”. as she says this, i’m holding a mic towards her wearing timbs and fire-engine red booty shorts and maybe even some doorknockers. now, what’s interesting is that (some) African women aren’t the only ones that feel that way. many African American women try their damndest not to be Trikeesha from the hood, who’s on food stamps with 4 babies and 3 baby daddies who doesn’t speak the “queen’s English”. but even in trying NOT to be this oversimplified caricature who never gets the respect of even having a context or a history or feelings…we become overly conscious of being the opposite of that, that we end up being someone we aren’t.
but in not having a strong aversion to anything having to do with that caricature, we become (as Black women, especially) susceptible to disrespect, exploitation, and even bodily harm. so there are so many subliminal incentives to identify with Michelle Obama and Oprah and never with the around the way girls from the hood. for me, being comfortable with myself and my Blackness meant realizing that all of these women are a part of me. i have an aunt and an uncle who are crackheads (not the haha crackheads, but people who literally smoke crack) from the hood. my maternal grandmother had 9 kids, with maybe 8 different men (one of my aunts doesn’t know who her father is and neither did my grandmother) who all lived in the hood. and a current rotation of 3-4 cousins who are in an out of prison. and yes, i wear booty shorts and leggings as pants whenever the fuck i want.
we have to refuse these boxes, because they are just that - boxes; limitations; repressions, and of someone else’s making. jumping out of one box and into another (less disrespected) one doesn’t make you any more freer - you’re still being manipulated. and we are complex and dynamic people - not flat caricatures formed in vacuums. i think this may be more difficult for Black people, especially African immigrants (really, POC immigrants to the US in general) to put into practice because, again, being taken for an African American can literally result in your life being taken or unemployment or street harassment by people who think you’re a prostitute. but we will not be truly free until we do away with these boxes altogether.
Much has been said about Black Mammy Black Mother— Black Mother,
shirley dougan king, night song. (via black-poetry)
but little about
You remember her—the slave woman
who had to stand silent
as she watched her children
being sold away (silent)
as one would do with a littler of pups;
the one who gave
her life-milk to little “master”
while her child cried hungry and alone;
the one who knew
freedom came too late for her
but washed Miss Lucy’s clothes
just so hers could buy those books
the one who watched her man hanging
from that tree of sorrow
yet (n the face of master)
strong for her children
The one who hates the hell hole
she’s living in,
but scrubbing her children
every Sunday for that bit of heaven
Sunday morning services.
You remember her—
the one who got all joy
and pride from your successes,
The one who wore that old coat
so you could have a new one;
the one who taught you
what love - unselfish really meant;
the one who volumes
could be written about.
Much has been said about Black Mammy
an interesting article by Funlayo E. Wood discussing the marginalization of followers of African traditional religions/spiritualities (in the US) in conversations involving the growing number of non-religious African Americans.