By DaiJhah Owens
I remember very vividly when I was sitting in the dining hall at my university. I was a new freshman trying to find my place at what was about to be my new home for the next 4 years. There was a group of black girls sitting across from me at the other table. They were being what I felt to be too loud, drawing too much attention to themselves, and behaving in a “ratchet” or “ghetto” way. I didn’t want to be associated with those negative black stereotypes. I wanted to be accepted; I wanted to be “one of the good black girls.” I didn’t realize until graduate school that those thoughts were the manifestation of internalized anti-blackness.
Anti-blackness can mean different things to different people, but for me it is simply one of the products of institutionalized racism and white supremacy. Anti-blackness is more sub-conscious than conscious, more covert than overt. These are the opinions, habits, and beliefs that we believe to be of our own preferences but are really derived from how we were socialized. To see black and any characteristics associated with the black culture as negative, was not just for white people. It was taught to us too; we just didn’t realize it.
My dining hall experience is a great example of this. I turned my nose up at those black girls for simply being themselves. Despite being naturally outgoing, having a loud mouth, and having an opinionated personality, I tried very hard in college to shrink myself. Not to be whom I naturally was out of fear of being judged. Sometimes black people use anti-blackness as a protection for themselves against discrimination. Let’s be honest, who wants to be associated with perceived negativity, right? But what we have to realize is whether you are loud or quiet, ghetto or classy, a model citizen or a 3 time felon, your existence in your skin alone is enough.
One of the most tangible examples of anti-blackness is black republicans vs. black democrats. This is less about the political parties and their respective agendas and more about why we choose to associate with either in the first place. Black people overwhelmingly vote democrat in most elections; however there are some who choose to vote republican. Not just because they believe in republican values, but because they don’t want to be like every other black person. They want to be respected among their white counterparts as having the ability to go against the grain, therefore making them mentally superior. You see, from the beginning, black people have been used as political pawns. Rest assured, that no matter who you vote for, you are being used for some sort of political gain that will not benefit you in any way. This is how the system was set up to operate.
What are some ways anti-blackness thoughts or actions manifest in your own life? How can you actively counteract these thoughts?
We will never see progress in the black community if we continue to look toward the white gaze for approval to simply exist!
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!