Posts Tagged ‘being Black’

Anything but Black

May 2, 2010

Over the past ten years I’ve met and gotten to know many new, and different, people; people of literally all races. I’ve gotten to appreciate a vast array of different cultures and the thing that amazes me most of all is how similar we all are. I’ve met Africans (I use this term to describe the people I’ve met from various countries on the continent), Indians, Pakistanis Asians, Europeans, basically I’ve become familiar with a whole bunch of people and cultures.

One interesting thing I’ve noted though, is the trend among people who are non-caucasian, to describe themselves “in living color”. It seems like nationalism has given way to the juggernaut that is globalization, and no longer do people identify themselves (at least in circles of high discourse) in terms of the region of the world where they originate, but rather there has been a resurgence of the “color code”.

Years ago, we heard talk of Black, White, Red, and even Yellow people. That seemed to abate (for all of five minutes) some years ago. Back then the planet was not as interconnected as it is now, so people were not so much concerned with color as they were with nationalities. They were much more concerned with important stuff like imports and exports and how to put their countries on the map as the best manufacturers of this, that, or the other.

Of course, with globalization, we no longer have the “protection” previously afforded by seas, national borders and just sheer distance. We have now been literally thrown together, and the newest “sexy” word to hit the airwaves is……….(drumroll)……..diversity. It seems like all of a sudden, everywhere you go, there is talk of cultural tolerance and diversity. It’s as if this whole diversity concept is somehow some fantastic new discovery (kinda like how Columbus “discovered that whole slew of countries for Spain). Being “thrown together” with people of varying backgrounds and histories is nothing new to me. I come from a place where you could probably find at least one person from every country on this planet we so love. when I was growing up though, we referred to the “melting pot” that we called home, as cosmopolitan. I guess “diverse” is somehow more politically correct.

So now that we no longer have the geographical protection, we once enjoyed, we have to find different tools to express our “differentness”. By far the most popular tool we employ is that of skin color (sort of). This, of course brings with it a “boatload” of history. By and large, skin color, has primarily been used as a weapon against Africans and people of African descent. We all have at least some idea of the history of slavery and the role that this whole concept of skin color has played in the history of the world.

Because of it’s early use as part of the artillery against Black people, we now find that people who are non-white, are making a conscious effort not to be in any way, form, or fashion, “mistaken” as Black people. Several years ago, I was introduced to my first “Brown” person. I was a little taken aback, because this person, (who happened to be darker than most Black people I know) was quite casually referring to himself as ……….Brown. Turns out that the old adage, “Black ain’t nothin but a color”, isn’t completely right after all; there are so many psychological issues tied up in that five letter word, you wish it was just a color.

So is Brown the new “not-Black”? Are people who are obviously not White, trying to make it as obvious that they are not Black? Are they trying to distance themselves as far as possible from what they see as some kind of stigma associated with being considered Black? Or is it that they simply want to carve their own niche, free to make their own way in this technicolor world, without any of the baggage that could potentially be associated with being seen as Black?……Hmmm.

It could be that the Brown people just want to make their own mark…..could be. It could be that Brown does not necessarily mean not-Black……could be. That would make a lot more sense to me, though, if the “color wars” didn’t extend into the Black community. I have so many “mochas”, “caramels”, and “chocolates”, on my instant messenger list that it looks like a Starbucks menu.

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