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What my Blackness Means to Me

Rosa Parks sat in the whites-only section of a bus in 1956, an example of civil disobedience. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
Rosa Parks sat in the whites-only section of a bus in 1956, an example of civil disobedience. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

By Milette Millington

Published: December 6th, 2017

The thesaurus defines blackness as the quality or state of being black. Blackness does not refer to the absence of light in a room, or a color worn to funerals; it refers to the color of skin. However, as for me, being aware of my blackness means understanding my roots and my history as a young black woman in this world. I consider blackness a component of identity because it is a part of who I am. Finis explains identity in terms of socio-demographic characteristics which include gender, age, and ethnic group. My blackness has a powerful impact on my identity because it allows me to have continuous confidence in myself and the things I have done and the things I will continue to do.

Historically, both male and female slaves were not viewed as worthy enough to receive an education, because they were black. They were only supposed to obey their white masters’ orders, and do whatever work they were asked to do. They were not taught how to read and write by their masters; thus, if they wanted to learn, they would have to secretly teach themselves. Malcolm X taught himself to read and write while being in prison. Frederick Douglass, in his biography, discussed how he learned to read from white children in the neighborhood he grew up in, and by observing the writings of men he worked with. He also secretly taught himself to read and write in his early days as a slave. These individuals, among many others, paved the way for black people to succeed in getting a proper education. Because of these individuals, among many others, and their achievements, I feel like my blackness allows me to take advantage of every possible opportunity that I can, in order to succeed in my educational endeavors.

In terms of work, historically, black people have had the ideology instilled in them that they have to work twice as hard to receive the same reward for their labor. In the past, they’ve put in the effort and hadn’t received any reward at all. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, fought for civil rights for African Americans through nonviolence and civil disobedience tactics. His work didn’t get commemorated until President Ronald Reagan created a federal holiday in his honor, which was first celebrated on January 20th, 1986. This is still very true today for blacks in our society. In relation to work, my blackness lets me know how hard I have to work to get to the position I want to get to in the workforce.

Understanding blackness means knowing your roots and your history. It means understanding where you came from in life, where you are going, and where you want to be. Understanding blackness also means making a distinction between who you should be and who you are. As a black person, it is essential for you to be aware of the history of your people because it allows you to see what struggles and challenges they risked their lives for in order for you to exist in the world as someone who matters.

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