Is Blackness a Gated Community?
4 ways Black people can lose their “Black card”
Here’s something we don’t often talk about: the way some Black people are willing to kick other Black people out of the club of Blackness for some perceived infraction of the “Blackness code”, if there is such a thing.
There are some who appoint themselves the arbiter of all that is authentically Black and who want to leave anyone who doesn’t measure up out in the cold.
Note that I have no issue with slating the Black people who epitomize anti-Blackness. There are plenty of those, and they need to do a LOT better.
But when people look at external factors and decide that this or that person isn’t Black enough, it doesn’t sit well with me.
Let me share a few experiences from me and people close to me that illustrate what I mean. Here are some of the reasons people have threatened to revoke the “Black card”.
1. Liking “white” music
My musical tastes can best be described as eclectic - that’s how my two Black parents raised me. One day we could be listening to Nina Simone, the next to something classical. My own tastes favor Motown, 80s R&B, Calypso and Bob Marley, but also Abba, the Bee Gees and the Beatles. In certain company, liking those last three raises eyebrows, and leads to many disparaging comments.
Truthfully, I don’t care. I like what I like, and I’m willing to bet that the best musicians of any ethnicity listen to music across the spectrum for inspiration. (I won’t get into the appropriation of Black music so white artists profit; that’s a discussion for another time.)
2. Having white friends
Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t choose my friends by the color of their skin. Friendship is a matter of affinity and opportunity. I’ve lived in several countries, and my friend group reflects that. Most of my friends from my schooldays are Black; most of my friends from when I lived in the UK are white. I don’t consider that having either group of friends changes anything about who I am, but it has been questioned.
3. Having a white husband
When I returned to the Caribbean, a friend thought I would no longer be the person they knew because I’d married a white guy. They thought we couldn’t have the same conversations, and that something about me had changed forever. While interacting with people from different cultures (which I’ve done throughout my life) can cause you to grow, I didn’t believe my essential nature was different. Eventually, they realized it was true.
4. Having a white father
This one’s not me, obviously, but my daughter. This isn’t so much an issue with her oldest friends, but with other groups she may come into contact with. She can be having a good time talking about what they have in common, but they’ll look at her differently when her dad turns up to collect her. And, as I explained in Pink Isn’t Red, some people see her as not Black enough because she is biracial. That’s really not cool.
Why This Happens
So, what’s behind all this? I can only speculate. There’s probably a historical element, in that a white supremacist world has never been good for Black people in the past, and still isn’t today. It’s why Black people want to privilege experiences that reflect our cultural heritage - my parents raised me to believe that Black is beautiful, which was pretty revolutionary in a post-colonial setting.
But that doesn’t make any association with whiteness a betrayal, not if you know who you are. Revoking someone’s “Black card” suggests that the person doing the revoking isn’t confident and secure in their Black identity, and the rightness and beauty of being Black.
May I Have My “Black Card” Back Now?
I, however, am secure in my identity. Singing along to Mamma Mia hasn’t made me any less a Black woman. And having white friends and a white husband hasn’t stopped me from speaking the truth of what I’ve experienced in this Black skin.
As I’ve said so often in the past, the enemies we should be fighting are white supremacy and anti-Black racism, not each other. So, may I have back my “Black card” now, please?
What’s your view?
“One of the best educational gifts I gave myself last year” - feedback from one of the participants in the Anti-Racism Workshop I’m co-facilitating. The next one is on March 20th - check out the details at Beyond School.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.