Friday, January 19, 2007

compensatory blackness

i was a happy, well-behaved, well (enough)-adjusted little black girl (with a helluva country accent). this was never an issue. i've read the bluest eye; i appreciate and understand the attacks on little black girls as they try to understand and accept themselves. i've read about and talked with other black women, those who once longed for lighter skin and longer or looser hair. the thing is, that that has never been me. i've never had an issue with my skin color or the texture of my hair (well...perhaps it could be thicker). i've never longed for lighter eyes or longer hair. i've never wondered what it would be like to be white.

my comfort in my black skin i'd have to attribute to my father. my daddy is dark-skinned. his brothers are dark-skinned. the majority of his sisters are dark-skinned, with the "lightest" being my color. my father and uncles and aunts did not try to dilute their blackness; they didn't strategically mate in hopes of having children with looser hair or lighter skin. unlike so many who only give public, verbal commendation to the "black is beautiful" motto, my father's family proved that they believed it by choosing partners who were reflections of themselves.

when i was a kid, my father and uncles always bought the black doll for me. my mom bought me a dukes of hazzard nightgown with bo, luke or both on it, and my father went ape shit saying, "my daughter won't prance around with some white man on her chest." he was against my getting a perm (not my decision, more the decision of my mom and my cosmetologist cousin who lived with us at the time). there was never any reason to believe being a little black girl with nappy hair was something to be ashamed of. (perhaps if i were darker i would have felt more pressure to conform. i can recall two of my cousins being repeatedly told that they were "so pretty to be dark-skinned" when the fact is they were just pretty, period. how would i have felt if i weren't middle-skinded [ha!] and neither here nor there in the crazed color spectrum? i'll never know.)

unfortunately, not everyone has had my experience. there are so many women who recount their stories of wishing to be something other than what they are. and then there are those who are what these women longed to be, but they don't feel black enough. often many of these women become victims of what i call compensatory blackness. compensatory blackness is a staunch afrocentrism that ranges from the reasonable to the cartoonishly rabid. i liken it to those promiscuous and generally dissolute individuals who wild out in their youth then find jesus and cling to him like static electrons. often, those who rejected their blackness as adolescents or those who don't feel as if they are black enough demonstrate a dogged determination to prove to themselves and anyone watching that they are indeed black--blacker than blacker than black as a matter of fact. so, out go the suburban friends of childhood and in come the militant black friends; out go the free spirited drum circles, in come the coffee shop poetry slams; out go the wispy perms, in come the locs; out goes "love has no color," in comes "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice."

i'm not judging (really, i'm not). i'm just making an observation and writing about it. hell, i'm not above admitting that i had an extended nihilistic period of writing angry poetry, sulking in corners, kicking it with other angry, sulky poets, and aggressively decrying all things conformist. it's a part of adolescence; we all go through extreme stages trying to figure out what makes us happy. i applaud the effort as a matter of fact. the fact that people make the effort to confront their issues shows that they're thinking and understand that growth isn't an autonomous process. i'm just gonna need all those in their compensatory blackness stages to contain their enthusiasm, at least around me. i dont need your rhetoric, and i really don't need to read your current treatise on blackness. i am black, have always been black, and will remain black; i don't need the latest disassociated academic to explain to me how to go about maximizing my blackness. that doesn't mean that i don't continue to learn about my/our history. it does mean that you need to respect that our lives do not share the same trajectory, and perhaps i've already mulled over the distinction between black and Black.


Monica said...

I feel like this is a more well written version of a conversation we had first in 7th grade, again in 10th, and one other day fairly recently when we discussed a certain mutual friend's list of email contacts.

I actually find it offensive when someone who is in the compensatory stage of their negressence tries to pass judgement on someone who didn't need 28 years to figure out what was what.

Anonymous said...

You don't post blogs anymore, cutie

Donnz said...

Im in total agreement my girl. Nothing more irritated me than those plastic, eurocentrized black but with white girl feature females try to publicize the black is beautiful thing. Also I do feel like a lot of blackness is compensated these days- from singers, to actors, to girls in the club to vidi-hoes..and etc. Im happy you've had a strong sense of blackness in your family- I could say more or less the same. Keep on !