Friday, August 5, 2011

Black and Different Unite!

So y'all know that my blackness relationship to the dominant cultural narrative about what blackness is is something I struggle with. And while the Black Princetonian community definitely makes me feel less jarringly out of place than do/did most of the other interactions I've ever had with peoples of African descent--let it be known that I LOVE my fellow Black Princetonians, even when I don't feel like I mesh well with the group--I've never really totally been able to shake that puzzle-piece-that-got-wet-and-now-just-won't-fit-no-matter-how-hard-you-try feeling. (Something along the lines of I can stand strong with the group in a discussion forum like a BSU or PABW meeting, but Idgaf how popular the dance is, I will never portray any part of my body as "stanky". I can seek/give advice to fellow naturalistas on campus, but I don't believe in God. I feel like parts of me are both the thesis and the antithesis of the norms of our community, and so I've come to a happy medium with one foot in and one foot out.) So after getting internally frustrated trying to totally Black-ify my life for two years, I joined an eating club and Sustained Dialogue and have finally started to have the rainbow coalition of friends I'd always wanted. Again, nothing new here--I've talked about this before. 

What I really really love discovering, though, as I brought up yesterday in my post about Awkward Black Girl, is that out there in the interwebz world exist lots of other people who feel just as torn between their true selves and what the world wants their "Black" selves to be, people who want to change the narrative, people who get the vibe from other people, both Black and non-Black, that their racial validity is being questioned. Part of me wants to call this the rise of those who get called "Oreo," but I'm positive it's broader than that. [Side note: it wasn't until Sustained Dialogue this year that I heard the terms Banana and Apple (see definition six). Blew my mind. Also part of the reason I really don't want to limit my thesis about racial identity on campus to Black students--there are all kinds of tensions and derogatory in-group names I was entirely unaware of.] Some call us "awkward". Some call us "nerds". Some call us "bougie". Maybe we're all of those things. Maybe we're none. What we definitely are, though, is Black. And here, in large numbers. 

These two articles on the subject made me smile today:

Excerpt One (though I don't support other Black Americans trying to threaten my race card either--if anyone should recognize a broader interpretation of Blackness, it's us): 
"It's one thing when other African-Americans try to threaten my race card, but when people outside of my ethnicity have the audacity to question how "down" I am because of the bleak, stereotypical picture pop culture has painted for me, as a Black woman? Unacceptable."  -- Issa Rae (aka AWKWARD BLACK GIRL HERSELF), from The Huffington Post
Excerpt Two:
"My experience of surprising White folks has continued my whole life....the near-hostility from non-nerdy Black folks has been the most painful....So, I have tried to be Black in stereotypically recognizable ways....American people of all races have a hard time acknowledging the complicated ways that blackness exists...Some of us just want to be free to be our complicated Black selves and kick it however the wind blows." -- PhyllisRemastered
Another thing that made me smile: a black staff member here at Lewis, who I met at a Fields Center event and is leaving Princeton for Northwestern, called me "Sista" when he was saying his goodbyes. I love getting called Sista. Makes me feel like the person addressing me recognizes that I fit despite all the ways in which I am not normative.

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