I, along with many people of color, live in a constant state of what W.E.B. DuBois coined double consciousness. Double consciousness is a term describing the internal conflict experienced by subordinated groups in an oppressive society. As stated in my previous blog we all have masks we wear; unfortunately, my mask is my skin and I cannot take it off. No matter where I go in the world people don’t just see me as me, but as a black woman, and there are certain prejudices and stereotypes that are associated with being a black woman. For years I’ve tried to live in a manner that does not coincide with society’s perceptions of black women or black people in general but a few months ago, I came upon this quote on Facebook that inspired me:
“Black people. It is. Ok. To be. On some black shit. To go to black shit. To have dedicated and focused programming, all centered around black shit. To prefer black shit. To talk black shit that doesn’t even breathe of other folk shit. To be pro black. This incessant desire to bring everybody else shit into consideration while discussing our own is just…taxing. We need to give ourselves some lone sole attention right now. Straight up.” –Riana C. Mitchell
This quote was posted by a friend of mine as a response to life in general as a black person, but also because of the fatal police shootings of Philando Castile, Alva Braziel, and Alton Sterling. Not to mention the completely ludicrous but not deadly shooting of Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist who was trying calm his patient in the street. Needless to say racial tensions, which are always high for people of color, have been even higher lately.
Most black people I know have been trying to be strong and act like they are okay in lieu of what has happened, but to be honest we’re terrified. This terror goes beyond just being black; we’re afraid of simply being. Existing at all is dangerous for us. Thus, being ourselves, with all the quirks, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies is completely and utterly out of the question now. Many of us have lived in fear of being a walking, breathing stereotype. Living in Korea has served to intensify this struggle for me. I’m already a unicorn because I’m a foreigner living in a predominantly homogenous country, but being of African descent slightly multiplies the level of curiosity EVERYONE has with me.
I have to deal with ajummas (Korean older ladies) on the street touching my hair, men looking at me as a fetishy sexual object, strangers walking up to me and using “hood slang” to greet me, and people assuming that I can sing and dance because “All black people can sing and dance.” I have to explain to my students that just because my skin is darker than theirs does not mean I’m from Africa and explain to the SAME student over and over again why he shouldn’t use the word nigga because it’s racist and hurtful, and has been used for hundreds of years to oppress people. And while I knew these would be things I’d have to deal with living abroad, what pisses me off is that I’m always suppose to deal with these situations gracefully, diplomatically, so as not to offend the people who have either acted ignorantly or initially did not care about how their actions have offended me.
When I talked to my Korean coteacher about my student who regularly uses the N word in reference to black people she said, “Well isn’t ok if other people say it since black people refer to themselves using it?” I wanted to scream a vehement “NO” but I explained to her it was more complicated than that. As a matter of fact if you do some research on the origin of the word, it’s derived from the word Negus, which means king or ruler, typically of Ethiopia. But regardless of the etymology, I feel like an oppressed people can used a term that has been used to oppress them for years however the hell they want to use it if they choose to do so, and that does not give any other group the right to use it similarly, but I digress.
The point of it all is that I’m tired. I’m tired of suppressing my personality to make other people who do not look like me comfortable. I’m tired of tiptoeing over conversations about racism, classism, discrimination, and white privilege. I’m tired of trying not to play into the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype. I’m tired of people looking at me, a 27 year-old virgin, and thinking I’m the most sexualized or sexually active person in the room. I’m tired of trying to make a people, a country, love and understand me when they have shown time and time again that they don’t give a damn about me. When will this abusive relationship end? America keeps showing us its true colors and we, like battered women, keep coming back to our abusive husband begging him to love and accept us the way we are. We’re under the delusion that we need each other. No longer!
I, from this point on, am fully committed to being myself. Yes, I like to twerk. Yes, I sometimes clap my hands together when I’m talking about something I’m passionate about. Yes, I’m sometimes loud. Yes, I dance to the beat of my own drum. I’ll continue to do so and be radiantly ratchet, gracefully ghetto, bountifully bougie, sweetly sexy, intriguingly intellectual, and unapologetically and unashamedly African-American. As my friend Riana stated, it’s okay to be on some black shit black people. I’m on mine, and I really don’t care who I unintentionally offend anymore because from the top of my head to the tip of toes I am a Black Seoul.