unapologetically black

Hey y’all :)) this is my first post that is getting sent to my subscribers’ emails so that’s kinda exciting!

When I first created this space, I didn’t even know what I would write about. I just knew I wanted to share my thoughts and have my voice heard. I didn’t want to speak over anyone. I didn’t want to appear to have all the answers.

Instead, I’m here to speak out on issues that matter. I’m here to spread positivity, knowledge, and love.Sometimes it seems that doing something positive is more exhausting than rewarding, but I would not have it any other way.

   Something that’s been on my mind heavily lately is my identity as a black woman. My identity as a black woman has been challenged, broadened, strengthened, and has grown over the past year. I wanted to share a piece of my journey with you all and what it means to be a black woman to me in 2017.

i. OREO

Ah, yes I’m sure many millennials are familiar with this term. To those of you who are unfamiliar with this term it refers to someone who is “black on the outside but white on the inside.” Growing up, I mostly had white friends and some of them would throw this term around in casual conversation. They would tell me I didn’t “act black” or that I was an oreo. I could never quite understand why it bothered me originally. The more it happened and the older I’d gotten I realized why. I realized it was because I wasn’t allowed to be authentic. I wasn’t allowed to be me because that defied what they knew a black person to be. Their definitions of black people were built on stereotypes. This oreo comment was a microagression. Many of my classmates associated a black person with sass, anger, speaking a certain way, acting a certain way, and dressing a certain way.

I was in an uncomfortable position growing up concerning my identity. I loved alternative music but I also loved rap music. I felt that I was too black for my white friends and that I was also too white for my black friends. I struggled with this for most of middle and high school.

However, the problem wasn’t just with music. It was feeling that I couldn’t embrace who I was- all parts of who I was: my voice, my fashion choices, my music tastes, etc. without being questioned on my blackness.

Finally, I accepted that I just never will fit into a box. I don’t have to act a certain way to fit society’s expectations of me. I can listen to bands like Vampire Weekend without having my “black card” revoked. I can continue talking as I’ve always talked without fear of being told I talked “white”. I wasn’t aware all white people talked the same. What a concept.

ii.  discomfort

Another feeling I experience as a black woman is discomfort. I feel discomfort when I am the only black woman or black person in a space. I feel discomfort watching non-black people comfortably use racial slurs.

I feel discomfort when I don’t see representations of myself in the media. I remember subscribing to Seventeen Magazine when I was in middle school. I was so happy to have Seventeen sent to my house every month. However, I soon realized that most of the girls in the magazine were white. There was little diversity. I remember their attempts to be inclusive. They’d have an “African American beauty” section which was about only five pages in a 70+ page spread. I got the message. The magazine wasn’t originally created for girls like me. I eventually cancelled my subscription because I felt I excluded from one of the leading American magazines for preteens.

I’ve felt a lot of discomfort (sometimes on a daily basis) these past nineteen years as a black woman, but thankfully many people are still pioneering and changing the game.

I am so thankful for artists such as Issa Rae. Her humor and approach to the portrayal of being an awkward black girl appealed to my high school self. I loved her Youtube show “The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl” and I am so proud that she has her own show (Insecure) on HBO now. Janelle Monae’s music also helped shape me into the woman I am today. She encourages me to be an “electric lady”. If you follow me on Instagram, that’s why I have a lightning bolt next to my name. Just a small reminder. Being an electric lady means defying labels, remaining authentic, and embracing your blackness.

iii. “What if America loved black people as much as they love black culture?”-Amandla Stenberg

Black culture. It’s everywhere. Seriously. Ju Ju on that beat. NaeNae. Dabbing. Rap music. Slang words. Black people have contributed a lot to pop culture over the years. From dance crazes to music to fashion.

I think the most interesting thing has been the fashion industry’s treatment of black women. Many magazines will choose to shoot a white woman wearing tan bronzer with her hair in braids, lips drawn on to appear fuller, etc instead of choosing a black woman to be photographed. I’ve noticed the popularity of some hair styles or beauty trends that originated in black communities but they are not given the credit until a white woman makes it “trendy”.

I noticed that people love (idolize even) black celebrities, musicians, athletes, etc., but they seem uncomfortable when those same black icons speak out on their oppression or experiences as a black person. You can’t see these people as objects for your entertainment and forget that they are black people with living breathing stories. 

If you’re going to enjoy black culture, I believe you should be standing alongside us in our battle against systemic oppression. Speak out on privilege, positionality, and just plain injustice you see.

iv. Unapologetically Black

So here I am now. I’ve felt it all. I’ve gone through discomfort growing up as a black woman, but I am choosing to embrace my racial identity. I’ve dealt with blatant racism, micoaggressions, etc. I wish I could’ve told my 12 year old self that I can be anything I want to be. That I can be outspoken without being called sassy or loud. That I can listen to any music I like. That I can speak out on issues concerning me as a black woman. That I can love myself despite what others may think.

     Pro-black is not synonymous with anti-white. Black pride is finding joy simply in being black. It’s about learning to appreciate the beauty of being black. Being black means resilience. It means still fighting when many of the systems in place still work against you. Being black means embracing being different. Embracing your melanin. Embracing your hair. Embracing your features (our noses and lips specifically) when a westernized standard of beauty tells you that you shouldn’t. Being black means remaining hopeful.

I am so thankful for artists like Beyonce, Solange, and Kendrick Lamar who find beauty in the struggle. Their voices inspire and encourage me to keep going. They encourage me to shine. I’m thankful for the black students who paved the way for future students like me to attended Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). I’m thankful for my family who taught me from an early age to work hard. I’m so proud of my family of strong black people who’ve gone on to become doctors, nurses, educators, school administrators, and entrepreneurs.

so where do i go from here?

I’m going to continue learning to embrace my roots. I’m going to continue defying people’s perceptions of what a black woman should be. I’m a musician, I’m a writer, I’m a college student, I’m an amateur yogi, I’m a concert enthusiast, etc.

I will not let society tell me who I will be.

until next time,

Nicole

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