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Learning to Love My Blackness: Part 1

What happens when I remove the bow tie?

The cap that dons my head?

The pristine sweater to protect my uncertainty?

The skinny jeans that accentuate my thinness?

Beneath all the facade lies my real black body

Part I

From an early age, I was taught to cover up--to hide my black body. To shield it in uniforms, intelligence, language, control, obedience. For to open the black body to white eyes was to risk bruising. For me, this was not physical bruising that occurred on the streets. It was bruising of my ego, my heart, my mind. The bruising that happens when you realize you inhabit a world not designed for you. A world in which you are merely a visitor, an immigrant, an alien--beastlike, inhuman, extraterrestrial. You're just passing through eventually towards death, and as each day when you make it, you lose a bit more of your black body.

The schools are designed for this strict, albeit hidden, purpose--to slowly eradicate the black body. To punish it, control it, force it to submit, succumb under pressure. Discipline was the force that erased the black body--memorization, rote "learning," facts devoid of meaning. Each day, I learned the white world, while lessons about my black body from black body authors were nonexistent. So, I dressed up. On the streets, you wear your hoodies, do rags, Nike Air Jordan's, Levi's, timberlands, earrings, and massive chains. In the white schools, you wear your khaki pants, clean-shaven face, loafers, and Ralph Lauren polos tucked in, just like everyone else. As an adult, you transform and increase this costume to blazers, Kangol hats, bow ties, and colorful, playful, patterned socks. You soak up the compliments, the looks, the adoration as you endeavor to move toward whiteness, hiding your black body, your beautiful black body, that you learned to detest.

You try to be closer to that measuring stick -- whiteness -- and you eventually realize you'll never measure up, be the right inches or feet, because your inches and feet are of the incorrect color palette. Even so, you try harder, you study, you use your intelligence, and then just when you think you might have tricked everyone and made it, you're called the most vile racial slur [read: nigger]. And you feel even smaller than the measuring stick says you are.

The black body. Why is the black body so feared? No matter the lessons your parents teach you, you'll never know enough to answer this question. For the query is unanswerable, it's rhetorical, made up--to keep you guessing, moving toward a false hope. You look to your black president for answers; yet, they treat him the same.

You think you've made it because you've earned tenure in white academia. Yet, the fear over your black body is still palpable, heavy. For now you're a parent and must guard another person’s life. His light skin color makes you feel more confident that he'll be accepted, that the heaviness of his black body will be lighter. That maybe the measuring stick will measure him a bit more accurately. Then, you realize the measuring stick wasn't ever designed to measure black bodies. That the device is skewed and screwed. And your hope wanes. And your love softens. And your fear amplifies. And your black body quivers.

The black body. Why is the black body so feared? The black body is a curious thing. So strong, so fragile, so covered up, and so exposed all at the same time -- to mistreatment, doubt, abuse. So you wear your fancy attire, step outside, listen to “black” music, and become numb to the pain even as you feel everything.

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