'Black is Black?!'

By christinaillenapeake, Mar 10 2019 12:03PM

'Black is black' right?! My mum used to say that 'if your not White your Black!' This was said in an effort to protect us from what was to come. She said there was never any issues with race in our house until I came home one day and ask her if I was half made, as the kids at school kept calling me half cast? I remember staring at these kids as I was so confused as I hadn't heard it before and didn't know what it meant but by the scrunched up face of the kid screaming it at me, I knew that meant that it wasn't a nice thing to say.

That was the start of seeing that face many times as I grew up but that also meant that I held on to my Caribbean and English heritage even tighter as I was proud of be both. I was proud of my hybridity and still am. However, over the years I have found the black/white binary that many discussions surrounding black identity invoke particularly in American cultural discussion to require a rejection of that 'White' in my dual heritagee. I will always be proud of the Whiteness that is half of me and that comes from my father. He was an amazing man that loved and cared for his family and provided for us every day that he was walked this world until 1st February 2013.

Lately I have particularly felt the nuances in discussions surrounding black identity both in the essentialist rhetoric that seems to gloss over the dense hybridity of the diaspora in an effort to claim a racial solidarity, plus the same approach distances the inter racial contentions that I remember as a child. In the 80s and 90s when I was at school, I remember there was clashes between kids from the African continent, particularly from Somalia that came over as refugees and Afro Caribbean kids. I cannot imagine what a lot of those kids had seen and the fear of the conflict they were escaping and this clashed with kids that were 1st and 2nd generation descendents from Afro Caribbean immigrants and both looked at each other with suspicion and the insults reflected that.

When I saw Black Panther I remember thinking whose fantasy is this? Is this a fantasy from the African American imagination or from the heterogeneity of African cultural identities from that continent that this saga is born. It wasn't the best film I had ever seen but it is rare to see a mainstream film where you have a predominantly black cast. I guess a better description would be a non-white cast as I remember that you have film relaeased 'Roma 'set in Mexico that I have to see that looks astonishing.

I was listening to the Ameriacan based 'Breakfast Club' podcast that has like 2 to 3 milkiamvies an episode and during the interview with Childish Gambino I think, Charlemagne tha God asked about all black people going back to Africa where Gambino responded that Africa wasn't looking for the African American community to 'return home'. I have heard this before and that there are specific names even that they give to African Americans in some countries as they view them as stranger and its even stranger to them why they would identify to that extent with their home. When I was working with an NGO in Sierra Leone I was referred to as white and that made my head ring but I guess this was because I sounded 'white' as in British and lived in a 'white' country and that surpassed the colour of my skin. I was also called to what my ears sounded like 'yalla', that apparently referred to a nomadic tribe who women had quite fine features, possibly Northern African, but again this was to identify me as distinct from the Sierra Leonine characterisation of 'black'.

It's amazing how many identities one can assume as you travel as different cultures categorise you in different ways. I remember thinking that I still thought it was strange that such a sentiment would be raised today of returning to the 'homeland' but the African American experience is different to mine and I cannot imagine what it must be like to fear for yourself or your family being shot by police when out on the road or any of the many injustices that are constantly referenced. I wonder when migrated across the ocean how authentic the US narrative I receive in the UK actually is?

I swear as I get older I find myself to be increasingly naïve and I am resolved to keep listening to as many different view points and cultural representations that I can, to try and understand these narratives better, not just that of the black diaspora.

There is so much anger and conflict in the air and I feel like I am just trying to breathe in a little tolerance to gain some distance into WTF is happening! So many arguments seem to be so short sighted as the challenges that are coming with climate change and the legion of ecological issues coming back at us may or should negate many of these arguments, as ideally you like to think people will come together to try and ensure the collective survival, but I guess what really terrifies me is that the said conflicts will gain even deeper footing as each culture fights to save itself at the expense of others. I mean isn't that what we are already doing? I have no idea how to move forward. It overwhelming the challenges ahead of us. And this is what happens when you go deep at the pub on a Friday night with your peeps. You scare the crap out of each other but ultimately resolve to resolve find a way.