When Will Black People Stop Making Everything About Race?

1. When Black men (in the USA) are more likely to finish their college degrees than go to prison.

2. When the majority representation  of Black women in media cease to, in some shape or form, represent Black women as the Mammy, the Jezebel, Sapphire, etc., and are represented as complicated, nuance, and varying as all women are.

3. When Black people do not always have to worry about being an example of their race to the world.

…… I’ll stop here.

I was going to write another satirical article because I find humor to be among the most powerful tools of language and performance, when it comes to resisting racism. Dave Chappelle did so brilliantly and oftentimes it was almost an extra laugh for those who could see the resistance work he was doing in his stand-up. But people didn’t always get it. And people don’t always get it.

In my Internet audience, I have tried lists, essays, satire, sarcasm, sincerity, emotive appeal, and just about every trick in the book that I use in my graduate work as well. The reason why I like school is because I know that even when the audience doesn’t want to listen, they have to listen. The Internet differs and like it or not, everyone is coming from a different experience as determined by their socio-economic background, education, familial upbringing, geographic locations, life experiences, and choices. And thus the differing opinions are expected, the degree of difference in credible opinions are also expected.

One of the great things I have always appreciated about my upbringing with two academics in the home plus a very rich multiculturalism, is that I grew up relatively aware of difference but culturally attentive to them as well. I am an African, a Nigerian, I was born there and despite living out of there since I was four years old, I claim it. I have lived in the United Since since I was seventeen and granted, there are a lot of things I love about this country. But I am grateful that I didn’t spend my childhood here and the main reason is the rhetoric of race that children grow up with.

Even having lived in Botswana and been affected greatly by South African culture which was just moving out of its apartheid years when we moved there; even in the world where the Western discourses on any subject have more influence, I can wholeheartedly say that the experience of my Blackness as an African is completely different from the experience of Blackness of firstly Black Americans, and secondly, as a Black African in the United States.

From my perspective, the United States manages to be paradoxically obsessed with racial sensitivities yet simultaneously drenched with the ignorance of its racial inequalities. Aside from the fact that I have an academic interest in race, the racial consciousness that is almost forced upon me as a Black person living here still feels unnatural sometimes. And when I talk to many of my African friends about this that moved here initially for university like I did, it is more or less the same forced consciousness that is described. On the African continent, undoubtedly there are still some very deep ethnic/tribal prejudices that prevail. And while South Africa is a historically exceptional example, when it comes to race, many times because we are in the majority, and have some say in our media and rhetoric, the complexities differ from children who grow up here. Thus the experience while still filled with its own consciousness and stereotypes of Black African-ness, the experience of being Black American seems almost a lot more difficult to surmount and navigate in this world, all other things being equal.

I tell people I will never know what it’s like to be Black American and I don’t. But I do experience and understand some of the perspective of some of the negative experiences of Blackness in the United States. And I also understand that many times, the resistance to a historically and presently still grossly unequal community in terms of opportunity, education, health, well-being, treatment, and the mere right to express their frustrations, is often met with silence and silencing. And then there is the disgusting notion that the same freedom and equalities apply to all as if reality wouldn’t reflect that if it were the case.

The truth is I feel a deep sense of responsibility and passion for African diaspora and how it affects multicultural and public forums, nationally and internationally. And that includes talking about race and talking about the consequences of race, even as it exists as a social construct. Because social constructs do not mean that there are no real consequences faced by real people. And the truth be told, I never have to open my mouth and have a discussion about race or racial inequality ever again. Given my sufficient socio-economic privilege, education, upbringing, and even my identity as a Black African, I could live the rest of my life relatively comfortably without ever having to making anything “a racial issue,” and to remain silent even in the face of racist encounters, as so many others do.

So when I talk about race, when I write about it, satirically or sincerely, it’s hardly about me and my life. It’s about all the many millions of people who don’t have the courage or the education or the opportunity to talk about their experience and their lives. It’s about getting people to face the consequences that history has created for them and listen to other sides of the story. It’s about resisting the stereotypes and the silencing that the world throws at the same group of people every day. It’s about so much more than just me being an individual with a story. Because while I have a story, the collective story is more important than my individual story.

When will Black people stop making everything about t race? I hope not until the collective story has been told and the value of our words has been realized as just as important and necessary to the past and to the present, as those who initially told our story for us. And not just for Black people or people of color but all people who live in historically disenfranchised bodies. Because it is difficult to talk about these things anyway, and not only because they are painful in a way that oftentimes our words do not always do justice. But there is little hope in moving beyond these things if we don’t talk about them; the silence continues as deafening. So while the conversation is uncomfortable and sometimes welcome, in order to grow as a person and as a people, it is always indispensable. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

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