Tuesday, September 21, 2010

But you're Black.

Another post on intersectionality.

First a photo to illustrate how I feel about this particular issue.

thefinger

Ahem today my darlings I am your educating Negress and we're going to discuss Black folks who are "different".

For our purposes today "different" can include Black folks who might: dress funny, speak differently, etc etc.

Often when people talk about "different" Black folks what they really mean are Black folks who don't fit into a neat stereotype of what they thing a Black Person should be.

Now it's not just non-Black Folks. Black folks do it too and I'd like to offer some free advice about the effect this train of thought can have on one of us weirdos.

Now in case you're new for context I'm loudly and frequently queer, perverted, dress funny, occasionally Butch, fat, I am a strange strange bird.

For the majority of my life on this planet, someone has felt the need to inquire about why I like or wear certain things and their response is frequently-

"but you're Black."

When I was a child, before I had the language to distinctly make people aware of why I didn't like that I was just hurt.

As a child because I was a little shy and I read books by the arm full and had very long hair and liked to occasionally wear funny clothes, because I listened to music that wasn't popular at the time I spent time brooding about whether or not I was (as I thought at the time) a real Black person.

Now stop for a second and realize that this thought began when I was maybe 8 years old. Adults and other children questioned me about my Blackness, I was hectored by both adults and children.

There was often the implication either subtly or outright that there was something wrong with me and that I was somehow in denial about the color of my skin because I did things that other people did not then (or now sometimes sadly) ascribe to Black people.

To say it really fucked me up for awhile is a vast understatement.

I was not taught as a child how to protect myself against these things. So I stewed about it. I fretted because I knew that I was a Black Person and being the kind of child I was, I wanted to be good at it.

This pressure came from people of color and white people.

It was incredibly fucked up.

And it was also important because this kind of treatment at an early age is what set me on the path to figuring out and enjoying my own Black Identity and learning that no, the Black experience is not a monolithic one and that is one of the beautiful things about Black People.

This is what spurred me to really study the civil rights movement beyond the bullshit I learned during Black history month or the Civil Rights chapter.

That said, I think it's fucking bullshit.

I've known a lot of other Black folks who instead of this kind of treatment spurring them to create a Black Identity have estranged themselves from Black folks.

The problem is amplified by American culture, by how we discuss race, by how we deal with race.

For me, when I finally identified my problem with this kind of treatment and had language to use, a lot of people didn't take it well.

A lot of people don't deal with diversity well at all.

A lot of people are frightened by different and it's unfortunate.

Rather than teaching or preaching "tolerance" (fuck being tolerated) I'd rather preach listening. I'd rather preach respecting the individuality of any person.

The Black Experience is not monolithic. Yes there are lots of things lots of Black folks have in common, but at the end of the day my life is not their lives and theirs is not mine.

To bring it back to an intersectional place the Fat Experience is also not a monolith.

Because a lot of the world makes being fat a monolithic experience, fat people are often shunted into that shit position of Good Fattie vs Bad Fattie.

A lot of fat people are stuck in a place where they want to be the person that demonstrates that not all fat people exhibit whatever behavior.

Yeah I've been there.

Others feel edged out of discussions about fat because maybe they do exhibit whatever behavior.

Frankly it does nothing for nobody.

I know it's hard for a lot of people to swallow but no shared cultural experience whether it's Blackness, Queerness, Fatness, Whiteness, etc is so overwhelmingly monolithic that you can paint those people with a wide stripe.

We have to learn to approach each other in a less macrocosm and more in a microcosm.

What I mean is that especially these days when it is so fucking easy to peer into the life of another person via pictures, blogs etc to move past these things we need to look at each other and understand that our experiences are diverse.

And that diverse is not bad or wrong.

It just is.

So before you think that you need to question what someone does/wears/who they date/etc because you don't think X people do that, slow down. Think about what you're about to say and hopefully not say it.

A better way to approach that is maybe to say, "oh hey homie, you like X thing? Holy shit I like X thing too"

Or

"Oh wow that's pretty awesome how did you do that/where did you buy that/etc"

If you are going to speak to individuals treat them as individuals.

I swear it works.

Now if y'all will excuse me.

OH wait one note. You'll see if you clicked through to read that some of my blogroll is back. It's going to take awhile so if you don't see your link where it was previous I'm not mad I'm just working out an issue with Blogrolling and their jacked up code.

Now I love you all.

Go forth and frolic my homies.

Homo Out.
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3 comments:

wriggles said...

Yep, black on demand can weary the nerves.

JeninCanada said...

Yay! I found your blog again! Great post, as always.

FreeFox said...

I mostly think of myself as pink in colour - with a tendency towards flaking lobster when I get exposed to the sun. Less dichotomous that way.
From the picture you posted, ColorPix.exe and Wikipedia claim you are mostly Bronze (#CD7F32). ;)
(Brown, according to 'pedia comes both from "brun" meaning dusky and from "burnished" as in shiney. It's a nice word, actually.)
Of course, we can't all be the new black, huh?
Being pigeonholed is a funny thing. I mean, how it shapes us, if we want it or not. Apparently, before the 19th century, peeps didn't have a clear idea what to expect from queer folks. And so, queers were, well, each their own animal, you know. Then some peeps sort of codified it to mean pansy and butch. And suddenly fairies were traipsing around with limp wrists and flapper girls with short hair. But even when you don't conform, well, for me at least, it for a long time meant trying to be, like, the opposite. In a way, I was just as much defined by it that way than if I went along with the stereotype, huh?
I always kinda liked how Shakespearean blacks are totally different folks from, say, Uncle Tom, but a bit like Gangsta Rappers. (Othello?)
Yep, identity is a funny thing.

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