Words and art by Jacques Pierre Francois.
That night Donald Trump won the presidential election, I innately knew that there was no longer space for my naïveté about being black in America. A product of the ’90s and a sponge of millennial culture, I’d heard of the horrors and injustices that stained the history of my ethnic make-up, yet never did I feel the heat from such fires.
That night Trump won the presidential election, I innately knew that there was no longer space for my naïveté about being black in America.
Raised in a family of educators, medical professionals and pure pride, my family never introduced me to my blackness. Within our walls, there were no stories about racial inequities or tales of civil protests that led us to the foundation we’d all stand on firmly. In my clueless, immature mind, I simply believed we were just another central family in America. Same as all my other blue-eyed, blonde-haired friends from school and television, whom unbeknownst to my foolish self, I’d begin to idolize and mirror. I simply had no idea that there was, or could even be, another perception of my loved ones, or myself, until I learned about blackness, and how every single part of me was comprised of it.
Blackness isn’t merely the hue of my skin. Blackness involves the instinctive way my eyebrows raise when a person not black asks me: “how come you don’t act like other black people?” A question I ignorantly used to answer with glee until I recognized it was a device to destroy my dignity. Blackness is DAX hair pomade, braids that even Patra would envy, mixtapes sold in the corner store parking lot, and the tears that arrive while watching Cooley High. Blackness is the natural way my feet move in harmony with my hands while I dance, whether it’s to Fela Kuti or Three 6 Mafia. It’s sitting on the porch watching children run while Roy Ayers plays on the radio. It’s a distinct joy while reading Toni Morrison and Sister Souljah. Blackness is even so slight, it appears in the eye contact and smile I create for people who see my tall, black stature and refer to me not as human, but as a situation. Because of blackness, I’ve been able to not only survive, but also thrive and truly love in a country that was built without me in mind.
As I watched the vast crowds rejoice from a blatant racist’s victory, I had to ask myself: what does this mean for me and my blackness?
Now in 2016, years after being introduced to blackness, I’ve witnessed great progression in this land. From gay marriage, diversity in the workplace, women’s equality, there’s been much to be applauded in regards to change and progression in America. I felt at ease living in a nation that would appoint a black man to its highest office since only 50 short years ago Jim Crow was as prevalent as blue skies and white clouds. Maybe that’s where I went wrong–thinking my fellow citizens cherished my blackness the same way I do. Regardless of public officials and crooked politicians vying to erase its apparent presence in this country, I assumed that my blackness was safe finally–even appreciated and valued. So, as I watched the vast crowds rejoice from a blatant racist’s victory, I had to ask myself: what does this mean for me and my blackness? It’s the three hundred year-old equation that the ancestors passed our way to solve. No matter how much I multiply or divide, I came to realize that I don’t know the answer.