Day 8: Am I Black Enough?
I’m just going to issue a pre-warning here: this is going to be quite a ramble, as you probably know by now, if you’ve read any of my previous posts I can be a little incoherent (is that right word) I mean not clear in certain points I’m trying to get across but in writing every day as part of this challenge I hope to improve in that. Secondly, I will most likely write a few posts pertaining to this topic of 'blackness' so don’t get bored just yet.
OK, so I asked myself the question am I black enough? I've never not 'felt' black but what does that really mean? I am an African Caribbean British born female, born and raised in London. My mother is from Barbados and my father is Ghanaian. I grew up black, I walk around the place black, I live black. I am black. But what is black actually?
There are so many people who identify as being 'black' and their heritage is often mixed quite like my own and even more so. I have apparently some Scottish ancestry on my maternal grandmothers’ side, and this is not uncommon to have a mix of heritage in the black community especially when your family is from other than Africa. Some of us have Indian, Chinese and European roots mixed in with our blackness. Our skin colours vary in shade and tones as a result of that. Some of us are much lighter than the brown paper bag of approval, but regardless of the colour of our skin we identify as being black.
I think that being black for me is very cultural and culture is something that is so varied. Some people use it to divide but growing up in a very mixed environment and meeting people from various different countries and building relationships with them I have discovered that as human beings there are so many commonalities across our cultures that in fact make us more similar than dissimilar.
I remember growing up in school and being embarrassed in front of the other black Caribbean girls at times because I have an African surname. It really wasn’t uncommon to be teased as a black African child by west Indian Caribbean children. They always had the more English sounding names that were mostly easy for people to say and spell. I always had to tell people, the teacher in class how to pronounce mine. I dreaded the start of a school year with a new teacher.
Another thing that used to annoy me as a child was that ‘for a black person’ is that I actually had hair. Now this has got to be one of the most annoying things growing up black. Our hair alone, people want to touch it and ask questions about it all the time. I spent my whole life previous to becoming a Muslim and covering my hair with a hijab constantly being asked about my hair, or being pet without permission by people who think that they can just come up to you and touch your hair because they’re curious as to what it feels like. I don’t think any white person has ever asked permission before sticking their hand in my head to feel what an afro feels like.
Being half African and Half Caribbean and having a good lot of hair on my head, meaning that I wasn’t bald meant that it was always assumed by my Caribbean friends that it was because of my Caribbean roots that I actually had hair. Basically this meant that because the Caribbean is a place where there exists a mixed group of people- African, Chinese, Indian, European, Native American etc and all those people have lovely long my little pony hair that the fact that I wasn’t bald must be because some part of my DNA is from one of those cultures. I would always have to explain that actually my hair was exactly like my dad’s (before he went bald) and that actually in my family the women on my father’s side, (the Africans are all bald of course side) actually had very long hair typically even longer than mine.
I think I should write a post just talking about this hair issue actually because it is in and of itself a topic, especially since it is one of the things that is measured as a standard of beauty.
My 20 minutes is up but I will definitely continue this topic as I just have so much in my mind about it and since the world is now ready to hear black people talk about being black, I will take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts about my blackness.
Thank you for reading. Till tomorrow insha Allah (God willing)