Different Kinds of Black
Black people are continuously expressively caged. Unable to express cultural differences; there have always been social implementations that caused Black individuals to fear appearing too "ratchet", too "loud", ultimately too Black. From heavy, racist criticism towards Beyonce’s Black Is King, to gold teeth, to big and natural hair, it's all constantly looked down upon. This hate is received and accustomed to by the African-American community at rates far past familiarity, however, the African-American community’s common enemy isn’t the community’s only enemy. It seems the western black populace faces fierce limitations against their lifestyle by not only the black populace's common enemy, but by Africans, Caribbean people, and other black-ethnic people. Those who do not consider themselves [completely] Black by the definition that identifies one as African-American.
As a Haitian-Jamaican, I’ve been a spectator to cruel comments and mean-spirited jokes about African Americans from my friends and family.
"Don't wear bamboo hoop earrings."
"Don't wear your nails too long."
"Articulate your words, don't speak "ghetto."
Many of the Carib community believe themselves to be better than African-Americans. It is a common subconscious thought, if not an active thought at times in the Carib community that to be born to island parents with the class that accompanies the foreign accent, the beauty in the freedom of the isles, and the cultures surrounding the islands, as better than the African-American culture that most, if not all, derives from unknown and lost ancestry. Some would identify this mentality as arrogance, while others, patriotic and proud. However, the sense of superiority touches on all aspects of individuality. For example, the ability to speak many languages. In Haiti, the official languages are Creole, French, and Spanish. My family, given as an example through my many observations over the years, speaks all those languages as well as English. And every year for Christmas when my family comes together for the holidays, the comments on what my family considers to be a talent amongst prodigies is always compared to the Ebonics and English that African-Americans usually speak. Usually compared in a crude but joking manner.
To further expose the arrogant-like frame of mind: two Carib graduates I used to know were not only colorist and mildly racist towards African-Americans, but they also portrayed the superiority complex aforementioned religiously at times. And these two girls held these same ideals to the extreme, going as far as bullying darker-skinned girls on their school campus and comparing themselves to the rest of the Black girls at their university. One girl mixed with Chinese and the other girl light-skinned with green eyes, their concepts and behavior towards themselves and others were pompous, to say the least.
Saying things like:
“She’s just jealous of me because I’m mixed with China.”
“Really? Have you seen that girl’s hair?” Of course, us Black girls all know what that comment is supposed to mean.
The Black-on-Balck hate even grew to points where it burdened many friendships, including mine with them. The last straw for me being a comment I heard both of them joking about at their school’s Caribbean Student Association beauty pageant Awards:
“ I can’t believe dark-barbie won, she’s only half Jamaican.”
This self-hate can also be seen paralleled by Africans, Dominicans, Jamaicans, and many other black-ethnic nations.
My time in the African-Canadian community as a child led to my observed conclusions baked on my experiences. Many of the African immigrant kids, some of who lived in America before moving to Canada, claimed the African-American community to be ghetto, loud, and compulsive at times. Again with the same crude and joking manners. Mocking African-Americans by putting aluminum foil in their mouths to mimic grills and golds, cussing and saying the ‘n’ word, placing string on their heads to imitate weave. Some of which are innocent and natural to African-Americans such as hairstyles and dental work, but are the bud to one’s jokes and mockeries to modern Africans.
An old friend of mine from Ethiopia once explained to me her country’s mental attitude towards African-Americans during a conversation about the differences between her country and North America. She immediately began to describe North American Black people as inferior. I asked her what she meant, and she further explained her point in comparison to her depictions of what Black really is. Where being African is truly black, and being African-American is Black with missing ancestry. Her ancestry trails back generations, while African-American history begins in slave times. Of course, she didn’t articulate her thoughts as exactly such being a sixth-grader, but her notions were understood, though I did not exactly agree.
My reasoning for not agreeing was because I was able to compare the inevitable situation African-Americans were born into to my own, being Haitian and Jamaican. My Haitian ancestry is well-known to me, however, since I’m a product of a separated family, my Jamaican family is unfamiliar to me. However, even though I’m separated from my Jamaican side, such as African-Americans to Africa, doesn’t mean I’m no less Jamaican in my blood. Of course, the culture is different, but I’m Jamaican nonetheless. African-Americans are African at blood.
The problem with identification in the Black community is despairing when viewed next to the subjugation that has been endured for hundreds of years by the white, oppressive counterparts. With racism, prejudice, and hate crimes all against Black people, self-hatred within Black communities proves to be yet another obstacle placed upon Black people in the harshest ways. It is more important, now than ever, that all Black people alike unite and support one another.
REPORTER: Rachelle Barrett
THE VOICE, Gravity Magazine, 2020