Thursday, 15 September 2016

BLACK ENOUGH



My husband is of mixed ethnicities (how does one even say that?) He’s mixed – a mish mash…a  fabulous melting pot of a husband. As these days, most of us are, really.  The King for that matter is a walking UN, there are times at the doctors/school etc. and it takes me ten minutes to figure out which ethnicity box to check. My husband’s mother’s family is from Poland and his father is half Caribbean (Grenadian to be specific) & half English.

I’ve been with him over 10 years, and I’m always flabbergasted when people have the balls/nerve to comment on his skin colour. The top audacious comment, that he’s not ‘black enough.’ Or rather, they gleefully tell him that he’s ‘barely black,’ as if he fails to live up to some black test because his skin is a failing shade or his features don’t fall into some ‘black construct’ they have in their heads – “But um, all black people are supposed to look like this, didn’t you know??”  Saying this, for many he’s deemed to be brown (more than enough brown, but not enough black), but falls into that mysterious, “But really, what are you?” category. He’s often mistaken for Middle Eastern (real fun at airports), Moroccan, Brazilian, and so on…. Cause you know how it is, people love a label.

Before I go any further, my husband has very defined views on race and I shall leave it to him to explain this to you or, actually Newsweek Magazine can do it (http://europe.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123?rm=eu). But in short, he believes that race is a biological myth, not a reality. So, when people say he’s not ‘enough’ he’s not as offended as some would be, he’s just finds it curiously amusing.  On one level, one can’t help but be compelled to ask the idiot wanting to label him, well, what is black/brown to you? And why is it so important that my husband fits into that mold? And that is the key really…It depends on the construct that the person in question has in their own minds as to what ‘black is’ (or race for that matter). What people of colour should look like, act like, be like…. Is he wearing the wrong thing? Is his nose too wide, or not wide enough? What is the acceptable shade to allow him entry into this so-called club? (The hysterical part is most people that tell him this are white. Cause they know everything about what it is to be black).
  
In short, by saying to another person, 'you’re not ‘something’ enough,' you are immediately making a judgment on their experience (and being very obnoxious in the process). And it is exactly that, THEIR experience. Not yours. You don’t walk in their shoes, you don’t experience what they do and despite the shade of their skin, if they identify with a certain race, colour, creed what have you, that is entirely up to them (and well, not you) Furthermore, being ‘black’ and what that experience is, is not going to come down to race alone (or race at all for that matter). A Black man in Italy will have an entirely different experience than a black man in Arkansas. I still laugh to myself when someone asked me if Afro-Americans in England had English accents. And I said, um, YES, but they’re not referred to as Afro-Americans in England. They actually asked me, “Why not?”….Yeah, I’ll let you sit with that one for a bit.

There have been many instances where my husband was the only non-white person in the room and I assure you, walking into a pub in parts of England where you’re the only non-white and the entire room turns, well, suddenly you feel pretty damn ‘other.’  The other popular question he gets is, ‘where are you from?’ He always politely responds, “Well, I’m British.” And then of course, their response, ‘But where are you from?’ And he smiles and says, “London.” And they just pause and look totally stumped. Then just to torture them, he utters some Polish to our son and their head practically explodes.

And here is the rub, one man/woman’s black, might be another man’s brown, might be another man’s freaking beige, but at the end of the day, what the hell does it matter?  Each person is going to identify with his or her heritage in a specific way and that is not up to anyone else to label that heritage worthy of acceptability. And moreover, perhaps we should spend more time thinking of ourselves as Newsweek magazine (and so many other scholars do) suggests – as part of one species, ahem, the human species. But then, that would make us all the same, and not different as we’d like to think we are. Cause like it or not, we define ourselves by our differences; there is a safety in that. “No, no, I’m not like him. I’m better, smarter, faster, more successful!!” For me, that’s the egregious problem with today’s society. Too much focus on our differences, when we should really be looking at the collective as a whole and for that matter, our sameness. 





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