The truth is I had never really thought about what being black meant to me until I was in sixth form. Up until that point I guess ‘I did not notice colour,’ (which is funny considering the type of person I am now). And as a Londoner I had been exposed to multiculturalism from a young age.
I was soon freed of that ‘colour blindness’ when I attended a predominately white sixth form. I had never felt so black before.
My every move and my every sentence was attributed to my ‘blackness,’ and not in positive ways. It felt like my non-black classmates had built up a portfolio of negative stereotypes about black people and they wanted every black person, including myself to live up to it.
The first half of my first year in sixth form built up anger and hatred towards fellow classmates. I quickly resented some of my black classmates who accepted the micro aggressive racist statements from their white counterparts as ‘a bit of banter.’ The second half of my first year was filled with pity and an innate belief that reality would soon hit them when they left their home town, (and went to university or entered the working world) ultimately forcing them to change their behavior. This was clearly something I told myself in order to better deal with the situation because when I fast forward to present day and consider the working environment, there is no difference between ignorant school kids and ignorant colleagues.
The truth is you never really know what being black feels like until you are treated as a ‘black person.’ Which to me means that you are no longer treated as a normal member of society instead your colour defines how others respond and react to you. A lot of the time we allow our race to define us as individuals.
And for a long time I did just that, I allowed my race to define me. I made decisions based on my race. For example I remember not applying to certain retails companies (in my sixth form years) because I knew that 9 out of 10 times they only hired tall skinny white people (I’m sure most of you know who I am talking about). I understood the challenges I faced as a Black British African and as a Black British Female. I challenged the stereotypes at every opportunity presented to me but I was not challenging the underlining theory that my race defined who I am.
Many of us know that race is a social, and not a biological construct, but yet we place some much emphasis on it. And of course we have to because of the way society has been constructed. But we need to remember that race was constructed as a powerful tool used to divide and conquer.
I am BLACK. So what? Why does my blackness intimidate you? Why does my blackness scare you? Why does my blackness threaten you?
I am clothed in melanin and I love it. I stand black and proud and I hope every other black person does too. To all my black brothers and sisters, we cannot continue to view our blackness as a negative that hinders us, instead we need to start viewing it as a positive that teaches us. We cannot allow our race to define us.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ – Marianne Williamson