What Kind of Black Are You?
The New Black will play tennis and win awards and break cardboard stereotypes with her feet.
She will throw on ballerina slippers and dance and frolic in her Blackness. She will have blue hair and be a gymnast, or an afro cloud as high as Mars. The New Black will bring old Blacks in to teach dance to Black magical little girls in the house American slaves built. The New Black comes equipped with director’s chair accessories, natural hair products, Forbes 30 Under 30 mentions, and viral hashtags. The New Black will write books about Blackness and teach us about reparations, will make songs about Jackson 5 nostrils and dance with Black berets at big ass football parties. New Blacks ask socialists what are you doing now, and ask progressives about the unlawful imprisonment of young Blacks. New Blacks aim to offend you at the sheer thought of the newness of their Blackness. The New Black comes with Ultralight Beams. The New Black will not ask questions, or ask for a seat, or suggestions. The New Black dismantles old ideas and old ideals and deals with the old structure in accordance with Industry Rule # 4080.
But, one may ask, how Black are you?
Are you brown paper bag Black? Are you surveillance cameras abounding and mall security guard Black? Are you death by asphyxiation in a jail cell Black? Are you when you get on you gonna marry a White girl, or a Kardashian, Black? Are you a white Bronco Black? Perhaps you are a you don’t sag your pants, where are your parents, shhh take these quaaludes Black? You may be the raise your hand in class kind of Black, or make fun of the Black kid who raised his hand in class kind of Black. Perhaps you don’t even identify as Black. You don’t want to be tied or bogged down by labels. All they do is asphyxiate you. Maybe your father is Caribbean with a dash of Scottish and New Wave European, and your mother is German, Puerto Rican, South African, Guyanese, and 10% Australian. But, you got a record with Snoop? You in a Tyler Perry movie snapping your neck and smacking gum?
Join the club. Grab you a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and grape drink and have a seat. Better stop at your local DMV and get your driver’s license updated to read Blacker Than the Blackest Motherfucker because the percents still count. They won’t tell you that at the meetings. Oh, you ain’t know about the meetings? The “too Black for the White kids, too White for the Black kids, too much of anything not enough of everything else” meetings? Maybe you could be the kind of Black who ridicules another Black for their choice of who they love, especially if she isn’t Black. Because there are unspoken guidelines to your Blackness; there are penalties and consequences for stepping outside of the regulations preset long ago by elders who were finding their way between busing and lynchings, pork fat grease, ham hocks, and cotton bale finger pricks. To defy these laws is to defy yourself, to defy your people. Yes, your people. You are kin, even if you have not chosen to be. You will speak, must speak, to the soul and spirit of all those who share the complexion of you, the complexities of you.
Some will choose your Blackness for you, did you know that?
They will tell you how Black you are, or aren’t. They will tell you this based on your pigment, which HBCU you chose, what sorority you pledged. You know who the Soledad brothers are? Liquid Swords or Iron Man? You play spades? Dominoes? Can you handle a grill? How’s your Cupid Shuffle? Electric Slide? Give me a quote from Boyz N The Hood. How about Menace II Society? Know the first verse of LL’s Around the Way Girl? Know how to fry a chicken? Ever been to or hosted a deep fry? Loose definitions of what your Blackness means to you are not as important as the rigid caste system set in place that requires otherz to define for you what your Blackness means to everyone else. It will also place a z in place of an s when spelling out the word others because the standard, the rules, they are no longer the same because we have decided to change them, rename them something that better fits our today.
Lauryn Hill so eloquently asked:
“Who made these rules, I say? Who built these schools, I say??”
Word, Ms. Hill. Conflated stereotyped versions of stereotypes. They are exaggerated versions of themselves, we are made to be exaggerations of us, caricatures of the characters portrayed on lenses and screens both big and small. The middle ground, the gray areas, are traced and lined in chalk. We were made to die, to be reborn on the third day in 140 characters or less.
Certain kinds of Black cannot be washed away, cannot be dimmed or chained or rinsed off; held down or tied up.
You cannot hide away a certain kind of the Black — the kind that does not wait passively, but is incessant on having a voice heard about and around and above the screeching of police bullet banter. This kind of Black has Barbie dolls created in her likeness. This new Black sounds like trap, sounds like Paak, or Pac. This new Black celebrates magic in little Black girls, creates hashtags to help find kidnapped girls, creates dances, votes and puts people in office, runs for the mayor of Baltimore, and takes photos that get featured on the cover of TIME. This black redefines feminism, dissects intersectional feminists, tears down patriarchy, and detangles the roots of misogyny. This updated version of Black buys record labels. This new streamlined version drops albums at midnight with no press release or promotion, and sells her album to a major cell phone carrier and goes platinum before the album hits the shelves.
So, what kind of Black are you?
What kind of Black will you be, can you be? What kind of Black do you wish to be, to become? What kind of Black lives in you? What kind of Black died in order for your Black to live? How far will you go to acknowledge your Blackness, to live up to its potential? What does your Blackness mean to you? I’ll wait. The floor is open…