I recently had an experience where I felt like I was being deprived of my right to celebrate being Black. And immediately I was inspired to remind my brothers and sisters to protect what makes you, you. In this case, your Blackness. Let’s be real. White people have taken everything from us. They took our rights to education. They took away the stability of the Black family. They took our rights. Hell, they took US. So I’ve come up with a resounding statement which I believe to ring true at this very moment in my own life: “I’LL BE DAMNED IF THEY TAKE AWAY MY BLACKNESS!”

So, what do I mean when I say “MY BLACKNESS?” I mean my culture, my very identity. I mean my desire to say “aaayyyyyeee,” whenever I see another Queen killing it. I mean my ability to bounce back when I experience a traumatic life event. I mean my desire to listen to trap music when I had a horrible day at work. I’m talking about the effects of my experiences in the hood, and how those experiences molded me into the person I am.

Through experiences at work and in college, I’ve realized that some white people are comfortable when we retract from our culture and try to fit in with them. But the moment we become “too Black,” a huge problem arises out of their discomfort. They start twitching in their seats. They say things like, “Why are you so aggressive?” They look around and give side eyes to each other, as if to say, “Who approved this?”

Let me give a quick example: Have you ever been around a white person who questions why you say “Black” so many times?” Or what about people who “don’t see color?” What about the infamous, “Do you always have to talk about race?” Or have you ever gotten that feeling── when white people are around── that you have to “turn down” just a little bit? That feeling that tells you not to be too Black, but to tone it down. That feeling that says you have to be calm because you don’t want to come off as aggressive? The one that tells you that if you speak with your original dialect, you won’t be understood, or even worse, you won’t be seen as intelligent? That feeling that tells you to be more like white people because you want them to think you are just as good as they are?

We have to choose not to suppress our identity to make white people feel comfortable.

Whether you can relate to all of these examples or only one of them, our Blackness is threatened every single day. We know that the very existence of our lives is a “threat” to this white society, but it doesn’t stop at hanging us on trees or pulling us over to shoot us down. The menace continues in white people’s observance of our everyday lives.  Our ability to bounce back as a people in spite of indescribable discrimination, prejudice, and hate is a reminder to the world that we are vessels full of magic who cannot be stopped. Our Black joy we put on display when we celebrate our accomplishments, the beautiful slang we used when we connect with our one another, the way we dance our hearts out at every party; these are all examples of what make us who we are. Unfortunately, these characterizations can be seen as senseless, wild or dangerous to white people who are not so appreciative of our contributions to society. Our very culture puts an uneasiness in the spirits of people who have not yet addressed the enormous fact that racism is alive and breathing.

But this fear is something that we as Black folks cannot allow to stifle our Blackness. We have to choose not to suppress our identity to make white people feel comfortable. Because as I stated before: “I’ll be damned if you take the only thing I got left: my Blackness.”

So, go! Wear that twist out sis! Say ‘aaayyyyeee’ as loud and as proud as your heart desires! When you are tempted to change the way you speak to make it more “understandable,” challenge yourself to speak like you always do. Don’t ever forget who you are. You are the breath of God in human form. You are gold and magic intertwined. You are royal greatness. And that is something that can never be stolen.  

BE YOU. In all your Blackness.

Shyrah Lauren