I think that from now on I need to be very critical of any theories, ideas, or culture that comes from AA people in the US because they are based on the lives, experiences, and reasoning of people who grew up in different environments different from the one in which I grew up. AA isn't the same as Black woman in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, or the same as growing up Black in any other country in the world. But for too long I (and many others) have been taking AA theories about what it means to be Black and AA culture and acting as though these socially constructed ideas should be adopted by Black people across the globe.
Even many AA people have written so much online about how they feel limited, stereotyped, and judged because of what other AA people say they are supposed to act and think. Why are we not free to be what we want to be? Why are we not free to choose from all ideas presented to us? Who decided what AA culture is and how they should act? Why should Black people in other cultures be expected to act and think like AA people? Why do so many people equate AA theories and culture with "Black culture"? Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Who created most modern Black thought in North America and should their writings apply to me? AA men wrote extensively about race (e.g., Frederick Douglas, WEB Dubois, Malcolm X etc.). These writings have been read by Black people in the US and even taught in classes. Black (and non-Black) people around the world have read these works. These men and many scholars (who are mostly men), shaped the way the world sees the Black experience but for them the Black experience is the African American Male experience! Do their theories and experiences apply well to AA women, Black women in other countries like me, or African women? Many of us have heard the saying "All the women are White and all the men are Black", well this is the case for many of the race theories I and many others have read. They are based on the reasoning of AA males of the past. Do these theories apply to a Canadian Black woman in 2014? Do their theories apply to you as a modern AA woman? Should be be relying on old writings and theories or should we be using updated theories based on modern evidence?
My Decision: I have decided to free myself from these old AA writings and ideas and probably most modern AA ideas about race. These theories colour the way people see the world and interpret things but they are theories that are biased, they are not facts. I do not think paying attention to these theories have helped me succeed in life and instead they made me suspicious, paranoid, and angry. These theories did not protect me from being harmed or help me so I choose to forget them. I am free to base things on my experience instead of being burdened with fear and feeling like I have been a victim my entire life. When I read these theories in the past and when I hear them now I do not have productive or helpful thoughts or feelings so I will stop exposing myself to them. I've heard enough and now it's time to focus on things that will actually help my life.
2. Who decided what "acting White" and "acting Black" was and should this apply to me? In my opinion, it's AA males who decided what it means to be Black and this has spread around the world. But there is some historical White racism mixed up in there and some of what AA males decided is based on a reaction to this. Unfortunately modern AA males have decided to embrace some of the racist stereotypes and defined blackness as the opposite of their definition whiteness! In the past things like reading, doing well in school, being well mannered, dressing neatly, speaking well, working a respectable job were not labeled "acting White", these where just things people did. But nowadays, if an AA person does these things they are sometimes teased for "acting White". It has happened to me in Canada a few times when I was told I was practically White by a White person because I wasn't loud and ghetto a decade ago or when people are surprised I don't like R&B and hip hop. But in Canada I don't recall anyone saying that my doing well in school or getting an advanced degree was "acting White" and I remember reading a statistic years ago saying Black women are more likely to have a university degree than all other groups (not sure if this is still true). I recently read a similar statistic about AA women. So I wonder why are Black women letting AA men define what it means to be Black? Why are you letting them define you? Is there a better definition that would serve your needs and goals better?
My Decision: I am going to be extra vigilant to eliminate all ideas I have about "acting White" and "acting Black" and I will act however I feel comfortable and prefer whatever appeals to me. I will no longer pay attention to AA trends, art, music, ideas, style etc. over non-AA trends, art, music, ideas, or style. I will be open to ideas, think about the source and intended audience, evaluate the merits of the idea, and decide if it will enhance my life or not. I will have my personal goals and will not let race factor into those goals. I am not trying to live up to any expectations for what AA culture says a Black woman should be. I will try to be a great woman period. I will not pay attention to AA theories that race needs to be recognized and discussed all the time in order to prevent racism. I will discuss it when I feel like it and not because I feel pressured to do so. I want to be seen as a unique individual person not a Black woman stereotype.
3. Who is free and who is brainwashed? This is one thing that I have really struggled with. I am so sick and tired of people trying to shape me and telling me if I believe one thing or act in one way then I am brainwashed or part of the problem; but if I think differently or act in a different way then I've stepped out of the matrix and I'm free. I know I have only so much power and there are others who have way more. I don't want to spend my free time thinking about how powerless I am and being angry at people or the system. This means I will not question my preferences any more! These are the following preferences I will no longer feel guilty about:
- I will date who I am attracted to and will not question whether Eurocentric society has shaped my dating preferences.
- I will not feel guilty about disliking the shrinkage in my natural hair and preferring to wear my hair stretched. Some natural women online are acting like it's self-hatred to prefer your hair stretched but I'm done listening to them.
- I will not feel guilty about preferring long hair on myself and other women. I think it looks better. I don't like Lupita Nyongo's hair and I think she would look better if she grew it out. It's my preference and I don't care where it comes from.
- I will not feel guilty about thinking a light-skinned or non-Black woman is attractive. I will not go on a smear campaign against any women in order to make dark-skinned Black women feel better. If you have great features you are beautiful regardless of your skin colour. I will not beat myself up or try to rationalize my preferences into something else out of fear I've been brainwashed. I like what I like case closed.
- I will not feel guilty about watching television. I will watch whatever I want for whatever reason I want.
- I will not feel guilty about the music I like. I will not like something just because Black people made it or because it is popular.
- I will not support something just because it involves a Black person. I will not support something just because it is popular (i.e., all the White people are doing it). I will support something if I believe in the cause.
If anyone can relate to this post, great, if not oh well. It's me figuring out what bothers me and eliminating that thinking from my mind. For most of my life I have been free of these thoughts and I want to go back to that time. Instead I want to focus on ways I can improve my life and feel better about myself. Focusing on the things listed above just created mental turmoil for me so I am throwing them to the side. I am free of the restriction I previously felt pressured to adhere to because I am Black. I am free.