So often do I see posts that chide the Black Lives Matter movement as a “racist organization.” Whether or not you agree with the political stances of the movement, it is rather perplexing that anyone could find them to be a racist (or even terrorist, as some have suggested) hate group. I could point to the lack of a strong central leadership or the lack of violent acts being committed in the name of the group, but instead I’d like to focus on the heart of this issue. For many, it seems, pro-blackness has become synonymous with anti-white. As a child of mixed-race, someone’s who’s grown up with a black and white parent, I can say that pro-blackness isn’t inherently anti-white. There are no doubt radicals in any movement, but I would assert that this isn’t the case for most black activists.
Turns of phrase and cultural expressions like Black Lives Matter or pieces that bring to attention black beauty don’t seek to tear down white lives or white beauty. Instead, they seek to empower black people and encourage discourse about black lives and racist institutional biases. It’s important to recognize that race and racial tensions don’t exist in a bubble. Rather, they exist in a culture riddled with historical contexts that have helped to create the underlying societal tension that we have seen spill over in the last few years.
About a week ago I was having a conversation with a few of my peers. We were discussing skin bleaching and Lil’ Kim. One student sought to compare skin bleaching to black face. She was confused as to why people would be offended with the latter but not the former. I argued that there was historical and bigoted context to black face- where the intent was to ridicule black people. On the other hand, Lil’ Kim’s skin bleaching was her attempt to look white because of insecurities she felt about being black.
The point of this series of rambling is that race relations and race don’t exist in a vacuum, and that the intention of black people when we acknowledge blackness is to challenge systemic oppression and bias cultural standards. There’s no problem in taking pride in your heritage, but it’s essential that we allow black people- a people who have been historically discriminated against throughout the history of this country and abroad- the same space.