What does it mean to be Black or act Black?

1 05 2008

This is the first in a series.

I was reading a post entitled “you are not really black” that got me thinking; what does it mean to be Black, White, Asian, Latino, or Native American…?

 Where is the list of requirements? Please I need to see it. What are the expectations? Is there a manual anywhere?

 I believe that the answer to these questions varies, from country to country and from culture to culture.

 I was reading that the Black experience was the same everywhere, I don’t believe that. This approach is too simplistic. There is racism in a lot of different parts of the world, but it is not just against Blacks. In some places Blacks are perceived as superior, better.

 The African American experience is a whole different thing. Although it varies from family, state, degree of urbanization, there is a central theme that is common to most. There are a series of stereotypes, fears, and assumptions that come with the skin color, because of the way this society works. I have learned that there is external as well as internalized racism, and racism against other groups.

 I would like African Americans to chime in, please correct me if I am wrong.

 I have an Alien friend born in a Latin American country, her mother is a Black, Latina and her father is a Black man from Africa. She was raised in Latin America, they moved here to the US when she was 15. She joined the local high school. She was learning English and she had two friends that came from Latin America as well, so they shared similar cultures (they did not have black skin).

 She soon started to be bullied by African American girls at school, they said:

“Who do you think you are? Why do you act white? Why do speak Black? Why don’t you act Black?”

 They offered her beatings, they threw rocks at her, and they had nasty nicknames for her. She could not understand why she was being harassed and offered beatings everyday at school.

 She asked them: “What does it mean to act Black?” There was no answer.

 Her mother would say, “honey, just be yourself” But the mother would confide in me, that she did not know either what it meant to act black and she was hearing the same type of comments at work.

 They eventually moved away.

 That got me wondering, I thought that those girls probably had never seen a Black girl who wasn’t African American, so she did not fit their expectation of how a Black girl should behave.

I had a conversation with two African American women that were disparaging a group of Africans that come from former Portuguese colonies and their language and culture are Portuguese. They were complaining that they do not act Black. I tried to get from them what acting black meant, with no avail.

 I explained to them that they have a different culture and they act according to their culture. I also try to make them see that maybe they do not know how to be an African American.

 Their answer was, “they think they are better than us”.

 I used to work for African Americans  that, every time I went to a meeting or a class, would ask me upon my return “How many blacks were there?” My answer would always be “I don’t know”. They would get upset, apparently I was to count the members of each racial group and bring back that information. I never understood why. Eventually they stopped asking. I was never aware of “race” until I moved here, I never pay attention to people’s “race”.

To me we all belong to the HUMAN RACE, skin color is just that, a color… for me.

 So please enlighten me, what does it mean to act black?

 I plan to continue the subject with other groups in subsequent postings.




3 responses

1 05 2008

theres no right or wrong way to act african american…
u cant categorize people as being too african american or not too african american…
theres no formula for it…
like hispanic isnt really a race… ok so u are spanish… thats no race…
u could be still african american and hispanic or white and hispanic…
but theres no such this as hispanic as a race… they dont have different features… and so what if they did have different features… would it matter?
no… and yet… people like identifying with their “race”
and its true and i keep trying to get the message though to people
we are all one species, one human race…
race… its all a social concept… theres no gene that determines it
and the media enforce it… thats why it keeps coming back…
it was always there… but now its subtle…

4 05 2008

i wish i knew for myself.

i think everyone has his/her own experience. Not every mixed person has had that young woman’s experience. i did. My daughters haven’t. Thank God.

My father was Black (African American, because as you say, the experience of Blacks in America is different that of Black in other areas of the globe) and was an intelligent, proud, hard working, strict, quiet and good person.

My mother’s family is from Brasil. She has cousins that have blond hair and blue eyes. She has cousins that have darker skin than i do.

My dad stressed the importance of being a proud Black person, of doing our best to succeed- because the world expected us to fail- and taught us to conduct ourselves with dignity. When he died, my mom continued his ideal. She always told us to be proud to be Black, to always stand with our Black brothers and sisters.

All i know is that i got messed up and messed with everyday. i was a “wanna be”, wannabe white, oreo, white acting, not “full Black”. Brothers and sisters didn’t want or need me. i was invalid. It was difficult to stand with folks that didn’t accept me as one of them, even though to the system and racists, i am them.

So i stand by myself, for myself. i’m okay with it now but it took a while to get here. No one should live to others’ standards of anything- Blackness, etc.,Femininity, etc. and so on and whatever else we come up with to divide ourselves.

C, I am sorry that you had to go through that experience. We should not have to live our lives up to other’s expectations.

5 05 2008

What it does mean to be human? I think that is the real question. Distinctions predicated on pigment, race, nationality, religion, and ethnicity are promoted to divide us. Our distinctions are few and our similarities are many. Our handlers do not benefit from our mutual oneness and promote our minimal differences. This is the basis of human suffering, war, bloodshed, and hatred. Must it be so?

Johnny, I wish we could all see that. I think talking about it helps.

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