What does it mean to be black?

Being black is an interesting and complex phenomenon. What’s strange is that we not only have to fight oppression and stereotyping from other races, but also within our race. The clichéd idea of what is means to be black presented in the media has permeated the black community so much so that we segregate people by how ‘black’ they are.

Black representation in the media has not provided the intended results of inclusion. By repeatedly presenting one image of what a black person is, the media has almost validated certain stereotypes. These stereotypes include the use of slang, living in poverty-stricken areas and not having a father present. This means that for other races who may not know any black people in real life, they believe the black experience to be monolithic. What’s worse is that black people who do not fit into this mould are shunned from their own community and labelled as ‘trying to be white.’

An issue with this is the underlying premise such comments possess. Poverty is not synonymous with being black. Being well spoken is not synonymous with being white. A broken family is not synonymous with being black. Many black people would agree with these statements and are often offended when people of other races believe such things. Yet we forget to address those within our communities who also perpetuate such stereotypes. These ideas are intended to work against us, and we are doing the white man’s work by agreeing with them.

A second issue with this is that we as black people cannot present ourselves as a united front to fight the injustice that we face. By creating divisions within the black community, power is maintained in white hands. We are so busy deciding who qualifies as being black that we cannot effectively combat the wider issues and our concerns cannot be taken seriously as they are presented in conflicting ways. It appears that we have allowed the media to succeed by validating and perpetuating these stereotypes to our own detriment.

Being black in today’s society is already very difficult, we need not make it more difficult by robbing certain black people of a community. All black people should be welcomed to the cookout. The well-spoken. The rapper. The private school attendee. The high-school dropout. The only qualification should be the colour of your skin because at the end of the day, we are all black to white people.

Love Jummy