I have a friend who has a personal styling business. She helps people revamp their wardrobes by trying on everything, purging what no longer serves them, keeping and restyling things they love into outfits that speak to their personal style. This leaves you giving the world the image of yourself that is all you, void of societal stereotypes, other’s personal opinions, and style that doesn’t deliver a message of confidence and beauty that is all your own. You… purified.
Black people need to do that for the culture. Clean out our closets. Rid ourselves of these ideas and tropes that come from the vestiges of slavery and marginalization that we have accepted as cultural truths… but that don’t fit our authentic narrative. We have to ensure our communications and actions are delivering our current message with deliberate purpose.
Wait, you ain’t HEAR ME!
We have to ensure our walk AND our talk are deliberately and purposefully delivering the message of the culture!
“Have you ever been hated or discriminated against?
I have, I’ve been protested and demonstrated against…” Eminem Cleaning out my Closet
When we arrived in America, we were renamed. Given names that stripped us of our personal and familial African identity that were replaced with names considered acceptable by White slave owners. The Kunta/Toby phenomenon. Today we tell children with unique, ancestral, and strong names that they should go by their middle names to ensure they get a job, or change their names as soon as the hit 18 or they will struggle being successful. I call bullshit! Beyoncé, Barack, Oprah, Denzel, Taraji, Tiger, Tupac, Ta-Nehisi, Denitra…
We were forced to become other than the proud Africans we were by stripping us of our identity. These names, if we embody and accept them, are like taking back our power. Denitra is Romanian for purify. Taraji is Swahili for hope. Beyoncé is a slight variation of her Grandmother’s last name. Ta-Nehisi is Egyptian for Land of Blacks. We tell our children to be leaders not followers. Stand out and don’t fit in. Embrace differences. To then have them be ashamed of a name given to them with pride and meaning is absurd. So don’t be too quick to denounce little DeVanté (Spanish: fighter of wrongs) he might become a successful songwriter and producer. If Elon Musk can name his child X Æ A-12… well then anything goes.
Similarly, we have accepted some other trash values from the “How to Train Your Slave” massa how-to book that belongs in some historical crypt underneath the Smithsonian. The paper bag test, the one drop rule, and every such flawed truth of this ilk are damaging and not on message. All of us are of mixed race, no matter how small or large the percentages. It is likely that the majority of White people in America have a drop, spoonful, or heaping helping of Black blood … so it’s clearly not a well thought out racist ideology. More importantly, it was intended to relegate anyone with Negro blood to second class citizenship. In 1911, Arkansas passed Act 320 (House Bill 79), also known as the “one-drop rule.” This isn’t a Black pride… we all Black… truth, it’s a racist framework.
So now we use it to both claim everyone with Black ancestry, which is cool, if you ancestrally and biologically identify, then we welcome you. It is also used to shame Black people who dare acknowledge all parts of their ancestry. Kamala Harris is hated because she acknowledges and is proud of her Indian and Jamaican nationality. That’s ludicrous. She is both Black and Asian, period. She doesn’t have to choose, she is both. Similarly, there is the rapper who goes by the name Mulatto… I hate the name as it is a racially offensive term…to acknowledge her mixed race heritage. She should be proud of all that she is, I just want her to use a name that is not akin to calling herself a “mule”… a racist trope about Black women. We have to be on message and aware. It is all reminiscent of Tiger Woods attempting to embrace all that he is when he coined the phrase “cablinasian” We don’t have to embrace these slave master rules that go against our message. We also don’t have to make up names or use derogatory names to show our pride in all that we are. Black people have been forced to live inside a box for decades, in order to achieve true freedom, we must be all of what and who we are. That doesn’t make us any less Black, but it surely makes is more free.
So let’s purge these words and actions that promote racist ideology from our collective closet, and let’s embrace those that fit our message… that Black people are dope, free, excellent, and releasing ourselves from the chains of racist policies, systems, and messages… for the culture! That means we can name our children anything from Madison to Masai and we can embrace our heritage, all of it, even the parts that are not Black. None of this makes us more or less who we are… Black people. We come in every hue of the sepia rainbow and every iteration of excellence there is. We have to be proud of it for that pride to register within the American conscience. No one else has to like it, but if we stay on message, they must respect it.
“Not taking nothing from no one, give ’em hell long as I’m breathing,
Keep kicking ass in the morning and taking names in the evening” Eminem, Cleaning out My Closet