Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is “acting black”?

The UltraViolet October 2008

To be black today can be bewildering. How do you “act black?” Is it sitting in the hall beat boxing in a circle with your girls, or is it walking, talking and strutting your stuff with an attitude, being loud, or is it wearing the latest Jordans and Nikes to school? What is it?

If you think you’re the only one confused, think again. Many African Americans like me are confused about how to see themselves.

Despite common stereotypes, not all African Americans have the same values and cultural traditions. We all come from different backgrounds and realities. Those in upper, middle, and lower class neighborhoods can have totally different experiences from one another. Essentially what I am trying to say is that not every black person will have the answers to your cultural questions and will “act black.” We all really are different.

Take a journey in the shoes of middle class black America to understand what I am saying. In today’s society, there are many black middle class kids. Speaking as one of these kids, at times it can be confusing to figure out where I belong. Do I revert to the so called “bouche” side where I would be considered acting white? Or do I revert to the side where I’m considered “ghetto”?

Being black and in the middle can mean a hard road and some get-lost-in-confusion, losing your true identity. Middle class black kids, as well as many others, have it hard when they are forced to figure out where they stand. We’re a little too bouche to be “acting black” and not bouche enough to be upper class, “classy.” But do we really have to stand on any side of the line? No! There is no way to “act black.”

People don’t walk around saying “Hey, you’re acting Asian because you got an A on your test.” It’s the same concept. We cannot make such broad generalizations.

There is no way to “act Black.” Sure, there are certain parts of our culture than many Black people accept as a part of themselves, but that doesn’t mean all the stereotypes are true.

On a real note, there is no way to act anything except to act like you. Being real is being you. It’s not fronting about who you are. It’s feeling like wearing purple and green high tops and feeling like you look good in them and not caring what other people think. It’s not trying to be all of the stereotypes that have historically burdened your race. You are so much more than your race. Don’t let others hold you to a standard and degrade you to a judgment. Acting black, Asian, white, Latino, and any other race, means being yourself.

- Ashtynn ‘09 (founder of Common Ground)

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