“So you’re really not taking your boys downtown to the Circle City Classic?”
“No. Not this year.”
“You should at least take them to the parade.”
“We are either going to a museum for free museum day or to the Indianapolis Chinese Festival.”
(laughs) “Ya’ll black. How you are you going to deprive them like that?”
I know I am not alone and these conversations aren’t new for me, but nonetheless they are annoying and sends the wrong message. Apparently there are certain criteria to determine if you are black enough and if you don’t measure up, some well meaning black person feels it is his or her obligation to notify you of this ‘fact.’ To make matters worse they might even confiscate your card.
My earliest memory of having my black card confiscated was at a family celebration. I don’t remember what we were celebrating, but I know I stuffed my face with way too much food. I was minding my own business, sitting at a table and debating whether or not I should finish the dessert I was nibbling. The DJ had just started playing the electric slide. After everyone was called to dance, a family member went around to convince nonparticipants to get on the dance floor. When the person got to me, I declined the invitation and said, “I don’t even know how to do that dance.” The family member placed out his hand out and waited. The confusion on my faced showed and my relative said, “Well, I’m taking your black card. You ain’t black if you can’t do the electric slide.” Over the years, my black card has been taken for other offenses such as not knowing how to play spades and never eating ramen noodles, to name a few.
Instead of trying fit black people into a box, I assert black people need to throw out the blackness measuring stick and accept the wide diversity that exists in our race and culture. At times, my husband and I are referred to as blerds (black nerds) because of our interests in sci-fi, fantasy, documentaries, other cultures and the fact that we simply enjoy learning. Although I don’t watch Power, what ever housewife show is on now, refrain from eating ribs and still haven’t learned the electric slide or how to play spades, it does not mean I am less than or not black enough. It makes me a unique piece of the fabric of our culture.
Eliminating this asinine measuring stick starts with our own families. Push back when your families members are making these off the wall statements and push back when they are confiscating imaginary cards. I have seen the struggles my black, biracial and multiracial family members have gone through because other families members or friends have suggested they don’t measure up. It’s not just white children who are taking their own lives; black children suicide rates are on the rise too. These comments, although they may be in fun, might be tearing down a black person that needs to be lifted up.
What did we end up doing? We attended the Indianapolis Chinese Festival. My boys have been really interested in China for the last two years since learning about it in school and since two or our aunts and one uncle went to China last October and stayed for three weeks. Yes our black relatives went to China for three weeks. Is that also an offense?
My husband and I know exposing our children to other cultures doesn’t negate or lessen how they feel about themselves as black boys; it helps them understand people who don’t look like them. We are not worried about them not loving who they are because they have good role models – they have parents who love themselves despite not being considered black enough.
Just in case you question if expanding their horizons is diminishing who they are as black boys, I’m just going to leave this picture one of my sons colored at school right here. This is just one of many that comes home colored in his own image. Too bad I didn’t take a picture of that black leprechaun he made.