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A few months ago at a Youtube Black event - an event celebrating black creators, I was asked a pretty probing question.
I was on a panel with other influencers, bloggers and various incredible black women, talking about diversity, how I got to where I am, mental health and so much more. I felt somewhat excited to be there, but anxious that I wasn't 'black enough' and my experiences would be seen as invalid. This is because I have a slight complex over my race and how I identify myself VS how other people identify me. For all of my life I was mixed race and proud, and then last year I decided I actually preferred the term 'black' or 'woman of colour'. I then went to an identify event hosted and put on by my friend Bilal, and it was there that I learned in white spaces I am black, and in black spaces I am mixed.
I'm definitely still trying to navigate life without a really clear vision of who I actually am. I know my personality, I know what I like and don't like, but when it comes to my identity I am confused and puzzled. The colour of my skin isn't just as simple as being half white or half black. There are so many complexities that make up who I am and for someone who used to be so proud of being mixed race, at times I feel like it is now a burden. I could talk about this until the cows come home but I don't really have the vocabulary yet to articulate what I want to say. I'm still processing and learning, which is something I am really ashamed to say
(we'll talk about this later on).
The question I was asked was 'what does being black mean to you?'. I froze inside, but on the outside I mustered up some sort of reply that probably didn't make sense and waffled out of me like gobidigook. I felt colour flush to my cheeks, my mouth go dry and the pressure to answer with something particularly profound and inspirational, that would convince everyone around me that I was woke as fuck, pro black, proud of my heritage and aware of my privilege.
I was too afraid of saying 'I don't know yet' or 'ask me again in a years time', so instead I whipped something up that would answer the question, even though it wasn't a true representation of what or how I felt at the time.
What is it about this culture within society that we are fearful of not knowing something? It is definitely an issue I have suffered with, and something I have been working on ever since this situation cropped up.
The new 'woke' mentality sometimes makes people rush the process of healing and getting educated. We are so afraid of being called out, being caught out and just generally being seen as silly, stupid or dumb.
When the gobidigook started falling out of my mouth, I felt ashamed, uninformed and foolish. I even felt angry that I hadn't prepared myself for such a question, and I felt even angrier towards the person who asked me. Was she asking me to catch me out? Was she asking me because I didn't know? It was a bloody awful feeling, and something I still think about all the time - hence this post.
I was raised by a white woman and the experiences and memories I made with and around black people were not positive. My Dad and many members of his family were violent and unsafe to be around as an adult, let alone as a child. Part of my journey with discovery and healing was to unlearn the negative correlations I had with blackness, as well as connect to that part of me. I actually wrote a post last year about what happened when I realised I was black, and how it had a profound affect on my ability to practise self love. You can read it here if you'd like.
Part of growth and living a wholesome life has been my journey towards self compassion and having an open heart. In order to do this I have had to delve inside of myself and search. Although I have found how I identify in white spaces and how I identify in black spaces, I don't think I am yet to find how I identify FOR ME. Will I ever discover that? I don't know. But what I do know, is that the complexities around being mixed race can be overwhelming and the process of understanding cannot be rushed.
So with all that being said, I wanted to hound into my sense of self and share with you what being black means to me, at this very moment in time.
Being black to me is embracing my blackness (something I suppressed and disconnected from for so long) which has enabled me to live my truth. On one hand, it is the reason I am trying to become so educated and why I am willing to listen to black experiences, in particular black women. And on the other hand it is the reason why I understand the importance of a sisterhood and intersectional feminism. Being black to me means knowing the importance of history and the mirco-aggressions black people face on a daily basis.
Being black to me is vulnerability and strength, it is power and disempower. It is black culture that I know and black culture I am yet to discover. It is wearing my hair in braids, and the next day wearing it out curly. Being black to me is embracing my body that was crafted with love by God. It is walking with my head held high, staying firm footed to the ground. Being black to me is connecting to my soul and feeding it with kindness, hope and affirmations.
What being black means to me is self compassion and compassion to people around me. It is showing others a different way to live. Being black to me is a sense of inner peace and a belief that I am here for a purpose bigger than I could ever imagine. Being black means to me that whatever I do, I must do it with due cause and from a place of love.
Being black to me, is just being me. It is embracing every part of me and living free from the fear that I should be anything different. It is recognising that by connecting to every part of me, I am allowing myself to just be free. What being black means to me, is simply growing through life and into the person I was born to be - the person I always was and the person I will always be.
I realised whilst writing this post that being black means different things to different people and there is no right or wrong. So for me, being black is being WHO I AM, unapologetically.