Sunday, April 4, 2010

What is Black culture?

As my daughter has grown up in a predominately affluent, white neighborhood outside of DC, I've often asked myself the question, is she growing up with a sense of what "black culture" is?? Then I immediately follow that question with what IS Black culture and how problematic will it be to her future if she has very little of it?

I guess when I think about what Black culture is, I believe the answer depends in who you ask. It seems to me that a significant portion of Whites and Blacks believe Black culture to equate to ghetto culture, fried chicken, sagging pants, hair weave, big gold hoop earrings, and no Daddy's in the home. But who decided on that highly limited and ignorant definition? Why can't "Black culture" be tennis lessons and engineering camp as is the case in my daughter's life?

I do have to concede that "Black culture" does seem to be defined along socioeconomic lines. For example, when I went home for Thanksgiving, my daughter shared her room with 2 cousins she's grown up with. One of them is the daughter of a former prostitute and crack addict who is being raised by her now recovered mother and who also has an older sister whom has had 3 kids by 3 different men, who flunked out of high school and also spent what should have been her high school years in a juvenile detention center, and is currently pregnant with a forth kid by yet another man!!! The second cousin is the child of an alcoholic father and recovered heroin addict mother who is being raised by her grandmother. Neither of the girls attends good schools, although the later is highly gifted academically and they are both growing up in lower middle class to poor neighborhoods. My daughter's life is the exact opposite and to many people, including people in our own families, she's growing up "White" whatever the hell that dumb $hit means! But as a Black woman, I DO know what Black folks mean when they say that. The thing is I NEVER hear such ignorance from ANY of my upper middle to upper class Black friends who share backgrounds and experiences similar to mine. In other words I ONLY hear this from folks with what I call "hood rat" mentalities. Besides, who in their right mind would want for the their kids, frequent exposure to the kinda low life living and mentality I described here?

So this brings me to my sister/friend whose nieces from a mid sized town in NC, visited me and daughter over Spring break. I'll be honest, knowing that these girls were being raised by grandparents in the 'hood because their parents have some of the issues I mentioned earlier, DID give me reason to be concerned whether or not they would get along, but they seemed to get along just fine, no doubt due the strong influences my sister the Doctor, has had in their lives (plus she's one of the most bougie Black women I know, LOL!!) But 24 hours after she mentioned to me after she'd taken her nieces back that she was concerned my daughter may not know "how to act" around other black folks, I got a little peeved. My questions are, why is it "unusual" for my daughter to rather read a book than gossip about the latest Lil' Wayne video? Why is it "unusual" if she'd rather play tennis or golf, than shoot a basketball (she's almost 5'8" at 13 years old!!!) Why is is "unusual" that she plays the violin instead of the clarinet? And why is it "unusual" for her to speak proper english more often that street slang?

IMHO, those things are NOT "unusual" and certainly don't make her "act White", or less in touch with who she is as a young Black woman, those things make her who she is, HERSELF!!!!! And my sister and I don't really disagree with that. Where we disagree is with her statement about my daughter needing to be comfortable around predominately Black groups of people. My thing is that with the way her life is shaping up, besides family functions, when will she ever be around predominately "Black groups" of people for any large period of time and why is that a "need"? And since when has being "down" been equated to being comfortable with other Black folks? Our church is extremely multicultural, her school is multicultural, our neighborhood is multicultural, and her friends look like a meeting of the UN. And in the end, isn't this what folks like Martin Luther King wanted for ALL people? My daughter is comfortable around PEOPLE and that's ALL I really care about.

BTW, Happy Easter everyone, and for the first time in years, we're coloring easter eggs!!! Yeah!:)

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