Black Identity | Teen Ink

Black Identity

November 1, 2007
By Anonymous

As I was taking the SAT a week ago, I came across an essay question: Discuss the word Identity. Identity is a very hard topic to discuss. Identity is a state of mind that many people still do not have a firm grasp on. It’s even harder for black people. Growing up in an unjustly, limiting society, black people probably have it the hardest. Most blacks do not even know any of their history before slavery, much less as history during slavery. Because of this, black people believe in the unjust society and try to dress, talk and think like the dominant group (in this case white people). For instance, black women choose to perm their hair to fit in society. Also, black males choose to leave their hair very low to neglect their Afro. Black people have fallen victim to society. My stance is that black people need to exclude their mainstream influences and stay true to themselves. There are many reasons why this should be. Firstly, black people are internally not living for themselves. They would follow what the dominant group thinks of them and follow. Secondly, black people are neglecting their values. Black people do not know the special qualities we have. Finally, white people, or any other dominant group will never respect you if you follow them. If you were yourself, they would see you as a legitimate human being.

Ever since I was young, I’ve always seen black women with such style and grace. However, I’ve always wondered why so many of them perm their hair. I always though to myself, “wow, those women had beautiful hair. Why did they do that to themselves?” That was before I grew up and knew that black women do it for a reason. They do it because they feel they won’t fit in. Black people do it because when they were young they were taught that their features were not as good as white people. It’s funny that as little girls, black women have their hair natural. But when they get older black girls perm their hair, as if this type of hair is a sign of maturity. For black men it’s the same thing. They rather leave their hair very low to produce waves. That is just a less strong form of the perm. Every time they go into a “mature function”(such as banquets, important parties, etc.) they have to match it with “mature hair”. Black people for some reason want to have straight hair to match the hair of white people. They refer to their own hair as nappy. First of all, the word nappy is an English word, which means filth or stinky baby diapers. This is in no correlation to the texture or look of black hair.

The same conundrum goes for the way black people wear their clothes. Some actually believe perfect attire for black people is a suit and tie. Black people need to have connection to their history. Before, black people wore long thin garments, with African designs. Since their skin is thick and receives the sun more, polyester clothing like a suit would suffocate their skin. Also, the black hair has many benefits. Before I get in to the discussion, I have to talk about coils or curls. Anything that coils receives more energy. For instance, our Milky Way Galaxy is spiral and therefore receives light and electrical energy. Also, wires for phones are meant to be curly for electricity to run through. From this information, black people should leave their hair natural. If they don’t have this hair, the sun energy will be messed up and they will never live a pure life. Hair is a symbol for who you are. For many centuries, hair symbolizes beauty and personality. These are the two major qualities of giving in to the dominant culture. You will think that you were not as beautiful and your whole personality would change to fit the culture.

Many people have been brainwashed to think that a natural lifestyle without designer clothes and permed hair is impossible. There is a life of fulfillment, such as acting the way you want to act. It’s okay to learn about your own history. You can blend European history with your own and see the connection. I see in a lot of people’s faces that they don’t look fully happy. They are missing something: a part of themselves. They worry too much on what the dominant culture is doing that they forget about their own needs. I guarantee that if you like your normal real self, people would see the good in you. They would respect you for who you are. Sometimes, people would get scared if their accent does not match the European culture’s accent. If you express your culture in a true way, other people would see your culture really matters. They won’t assume that your culture isn’t important, and they would want to learn more.

Many people would think, boy, why would you try to distance yourself from everybody? Everyone should speak the same way. People who have accents should lose them. A lot of black women would argue that perming their hair is the only way they can get lobs or succeed in life. You can’t walk in a prestigious working area with an afro or with locks. They also might argue that their hair is too hard to handle. A perm is much easier to fix in the morning. Black people would not agree with the African garments. They live in a European society, so they have to dress accordingly. Also, the weather is different in Africa. European societies have a colder weather and a suit would keep them warm. Black Americans are not familiar with that type of wear. Why wear something you’ve never worn before to work when you can wear your own garments to work. To many people, hair is not a big deal. They can cut it and grow it back, and do the same thing over again. ‘It’s just hair’, people would say.

If we exclude all of the negative influences that certain things are better than others, we would have a positive life. I’m not saying to completely neglect the European influence. However, we should not forget the African influences we had before the European influences. The former represents who we are. It becomes much more beautiful if we blend both strong points from each to make a powerful us. To those who disagree, can you challenge your situation? Can you change the way you look and think? Or do you have a one-track mind? What are we as people? It’s not good if that is the only way you can succeed and advance in life. Stay true to yourself, and somebody might actually respect you.

From the words of Malcolm X

"Back during slavery, when Black people like me talked to the slaves, they didn't kill 'em, they sent some old house Negro along behind him to undo what he said. You have to read the history of slavery to understand this. There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put 'em back on the plantation. The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the field Negro. He ate better, he dressed better, and he lived in a better house. He lived right up next to his master - in the attic or the basement. He ate the same food his master ate and wore his same clothes. And he could talk just like his master - good diction. And he loved his master more than his master loved himself. That's why he didn't want his master hurt. If the master got sick, he'd say, "What's the matter, boss, we sick?" [Laughter] When the master's house caught afire, he'd try and put the fire out. He didn't want his master's house burned. He never wanted his master's property threatened. And he was more defensive of it than the master was. That was the house Negro. But then you had some field Negroes, who lived in huts, had nothing to lose. They wore the worst kind of clothes. They ate the worst food. And they caught hell. They felt the sting of the lash. They hated their master. Oh yes, they did. If the master got sick, they'd pray that the master died. If the master's house caught afire, they'd pray for a strong wind to come along. This was the difference between the two. And today you still have house Negroes and field Negroes. I'm a field Negro."

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