The Truth About Embracing My Blackness

Some of our very first racist experience was when one of our white friends said “You don’t act black.”

That phrase brings back so many memories.

For years I let my white friends call me an “oreo” because I was white on the inside. In fact, I actively told them that was what I was. I subscribed to the notion of “talking white”, “acting white.” and being white on the inside. I did not embrace my Black Culture. To me, my blackness ended at my skin tone.

I had mostly white friends, so I tried my best to fit in with them. I watched what I said around them and let any racist joke just slip by unreprimanded. I even gave my white friends the coveted N-word pass. Yes, you read that right. I let the white people around me say “Nigga.” Not my proudest moments but I admit I have done it.

All through high school and my freshman year of college I created a bubble around me that sealed me off from the black world. I listened to purely white music, I supported only white brands, I let white people trample over me.

Don’t get me wrong—I watched “When They See Us” and “American Son.” I took African American Studies in the 10th grade. I participated in my high school’s Black History Month Celebration. I had my “rite of passage” by getting stopped ed by the cops because I was black. I’ve been to Africa and visited the slave castles there. I even started a blog to highlight “Black America.”

However, it wasn’t until I watched the video of death of George Floyd when something inside of me broke. I realized for the first time in my 19 years of life what it meant to be a black man in America. I don’t know why it is so different from Trayvon Martin, or Philando Castile, or Eric Gardner, or Ahmaud Arbery, but after watching George Floyd’s death, I felt like I had just put on a pair of prescription glasses that relieved me of my 20/1000 vision.

I saw this county for what it is: A system that was designed to kill me.

Just walking outside my house into my all white neighborhood scared me. I am now afraid to take out the trash or start my sister’s car because I don’t want my neighbors to think I am a burglar and call the cops on me. I have had constant nightmares about my family members being arrested or killed by cops. I look at my skin and no longer see a tone that is darker than my girlfriend’s. I see the word “TARGET” tattooed on every inch of my body.

The last two weeks have been enlightening, to say the least. I’ve watched so many documentaries, had so many “uncomfortable conversations with my white friends, lost a few of those friends, read so many articles, ordered so many books, listened to so many songs—all to educate myself and embrace by blackness.

Being Black is something that only 13.4% percent of the US population understands.

13.4% out of 100%

That’s how many people understand my fear.

That’s how many people understand my pain.

I’m tired of subscribing to the notion of being white because being black is the best gift I could have ever been born with.

I have come to fully recognize who I am. While I still go to a predominantly white school, this institution is alive with diversity, open to the kinds of thoughtful discussions my first high school lacked. Whatever uncertainty I once had about my identity is a distant memory. Being black, as I have come to discover, is a cultural experience, one that has no right or wrong. In my skin I am yet another variety, free to explore my people free of judgment, finally heard.

It took me a while to realize how messed my life has been. But evidently, I did. The inconsistencies and the fallacies began to add up. So much so that it seemed illogical to hate myself for wearing the beautiful ebony armor that I’ve been gifted with. I’ve grown to learn how beautiful my blackness is, and how the complexion of my skin and the curls in my hair are so unique that it should be celebrated instead of put down. I’ve grown to understand our complex history and I’ve started to truly appreciate black culture. I’ve fallen in love with the music, the style, the art, and I’ve fallen in love with myself.

 I finally feel like I have control over my identity, and I can embrace every inch of my blackness and manhood without seeking approval from anybody.

I’m embracing my blackness. To me, it’s part of accepting my reality. My skin has melanin. When I walk down the street, people don’t see my cultural history. They see my blackness.

And rather than deny that, I’m carving a place for myself as a proud black man.

A message to my fellow POC out there who are struggling with their identity:

1. Appreciate your culture.

We as a black community need to embrace our Blackness and who we are. Take pride in our differences and give Blackness a positive meaning and association to it. Every time people hear us talking about “Blackness” doesn’t mean a negative connotation should follow. Love the skin you’re in, the hair you have and the culture you come from. Not just Black people but all of God’s beautiful people.

2. Forget the haters!

Who cares what other people think? Self-awareness and self-worth are everything. Other subcultures aren’t going to teach our people about our culture. It’s up to us to restore the rich history of who we are and the progression we need to continue to make every day.

3. Swag it out!

It’s OK dress however you please. You can go from 0 to 100 real quick . Let ’em know that we all aren’t fit to be in one box.

4. Black is beautiful! Black people are beautiful! Period. It kills me to read how some people whiten their skin to appeal to mainstream beauty of standards. Beauty comes in all forms. And there isn’t any that are superior to others. I’m not shaming anyone who does this. I think that people do it because of self-hate or self-esteem issues. The love of oneself needs to be restored.

5. Let your voice be heard.

Our voice is what will help us in the end. Because if we don’t speak up, our silence will impact any prosperity of a brighter future.

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Nathan Odige