WE ARE: 5 women navigating our twenties in search of peace, happiness and love (or not). WE WRITE: about everything and nothing. From the insane to the mundane- you will find different paths taken, lessons learned and lives lived. WE THINK: you’ll enjoy it...Warning: Consumption of these views may leave you enlightened while intoxicated.


The View From Here will conclude on Friday, October 1, our third year anniversary. We would like to spend this month thanking all of our readers, followers, haters, visitors, family, friends, and fans for your continued support, encouragement, and comments over these past few years. Thanks y'all!
-The Five Spot

Friday, August 1, 2008

Black Is, Black Ain't

This post has been a long time coming. And then the special report aired. You know the one. And now Earl Graves is beefin' with Soledad O'Brien. And so I figured I’d get in on the action. Now I never intended to watch the program because I already know what it’s like to be Black in America (although I now know that I need someone to follow me around and chronicle my life story in spoken word so that it can sound deep, profound and rhythmic), but while I was out of town with the five, and we were flipping through channels we stopped at CNN and watched a few segments. Twas just what I expected so I dismissed it completely. And then I heard the comments on the morning radio shows. Some Black folk loved it. Some Black people hated it, but knew they weren’t the target audience. And some Black people just hated it altogether. I hadn’t given it much thought until my friend said, “I didn’t like it because they only showed Black people who wanted to be white or poor Black people, no one in the middle. What about us?” Ahhh what about us?

I grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC when it was truly Chocolate City. I grew up middle class with two professional parents who are first generation college graduates. I was surrounded by Black two parent families, Black lawyers, doctors, teachers, social workers, business owners, corporate America climbers, HBCU graduates, AKAs, Deltas, Alphas, Jack & Jillers, Martha’s Vineyard vacationers, movers and shakers, the whole "talented tenth" as it were. I attended a Black church and was in an all Black Girl Scout troop. Being around "successful" Black people who had advanced degrees, owned homes, and still ate chitlins and collard greens was my world and reality. And while I was in class with mostly white people, my mama always kept us grounded. Always a revolutionary, Mama Rum Punch kept it real. She taught us that Black was beautiful and something to be proud of. She taught us our history, and when I was in third grade during a field trip to the Capitol I argued with the white tour guide about how Lincoln did not really free the slaves. She and the teacher tried to hush me so that I wouldn’t ruin the myth for the rest of the class. But the seed had been planted. And I became outspoken Black girl in class, futilely trying to kick the truth to the young white youth. I then went on to an HBCU where I was surrounded by a diverse group of Black people who didn't fit into one identity. And then I entered the real world and learned how to straddle two worlds.

A couple of years ago I was at a bar in DC. As I was ordering a drink this Black chick asked me where I was from. "Maryland," I said. "You don’t sound like it," she said. "I try not to conform to stereotypes," I said. She was a little taken aback and then… "I love her," she squealed to her white friend. I knew instantly she was one of those black girls who had spent a lifetime surrounded around white people and probably had her "blackness" challenged by Black people. I had been there before when I was younger when people told me I sounded white. I wasn’t sure what that meant. And then I learned. And then I tried to change. And then I said fuck it. And I have been me ever since.
I don't feel the need to try to prove my Blackness, not prove my Blackness, be someone else’s definition of Black, or put all my energy into trying to change people's perception of Black. As a writer I write about the Black life that I know. I don't sugar coat, embellish or exaggerate. And when I present my work to my writer's groups, it's well received by people of all races. But I am noticing that there are some Black artistes who are on some: I don’t want to be the stereotypical Black person I just want to be me, but I want you to know that I know that I’m Black, I’m just not one of those Black people, I’m my own kind of Black person, but I’m still Black. Ok? Watch this and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

The whole thing confounds me. On one of the Black in America segments, one Black man had moved his family to the suburbs and was suffering from the 'white man’s ice is colder’ syndrome. What the hell is this all about, I wondered. What exactly is he trying to accomplish? Doesn't he know he's always going to be Black, no matter how hard he tries to be a different kind of Black person? What exactly is he trying to prove? And who is he trying to prove it to? Looking back at my life experiences, I realize that for me being Black was never this, or that, it just was. And even now, to me, it just is. We can try to bottle it or define it, but there will always be a difference of opinion or an anomaly that proves otherwise. To me being Black is the “worst” of us and the “best” of us and everything in between. The middle.

The middle which is often forgotten, an untold story, because it's just regular, normal, and everyday. It's filled with people who pay their bills on time, own houses and live in apartments, go to work, attend church/mosques/temples, get degrees, raise and marry off their children, get sick, make babies out of wedlock, celebrate golden anniversaries, travel the world, have cookouts, play bid whist, work in corporate America, the community & the government, get profiled by the police, have family members who made it to the suburbs and those still in the hood or the country, keep JET and Ebony on the coffee table, get perms or locs or keep it natural, live in cities and small towns, share inside jokes that the majority will never understand, make individual strides, fuck up, and have personal setbacks. Just trying to live the best life they can all the while being Black in America. Whatever that means.

That’s my time y’all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!


IntrospectiveGoddess said...

LOL@the reference to spoken word...that guy was getting on my nerves after awhile.....there did seem to be two extremes that they covered either upper middle class or working poor....either they were getting evicted from their home or sending one of their kids off to college no in between....i kind of felt so, so about the whole production.....me personally I dont try to fit into any one's box about what black means....however I am aware everyday of being black but I woulndt change it at all

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

why is a blog award so important hon,who cares i will still read yawl

Rum Punch said...

@ goddess - I think your last two sentences say it all and are a great "synopsis" of this post!

@ torrance - LOL! Yayyy, you are quite the dedicated reader and we love that! I can't speak for the rest of the 5, but I love winning things. I'm a Type A, over achiever, what can I say? Maybe that will be a future post... :-)

Coco said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! There is no way to capture the black experience and if you could it would definitely take more than four hours. I couldn't relate to the people I saw from the few snippets I saw. I can relate to most of your experience though so that says a lot about the journalism of CNN.