Natural Choice – RITC 4-07

by Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In the light of current events this subject appeared sort of on accident. The coincidence of timing is impeccable.

Since I have been in New York I have slowly learned that there are different kinds of “black people”. Bad enough I have chosen to be thrown into the world’s melting pot, worse than that I am also judged by what America has made me. A black American. I need to make it clear that I do not see myself as an African living in America (which is what I was taught I was in high school)… strictly because I have never known any Africa further than a book … nor have my parents.

So the way I figure it, there are three types of black people.

  1. Africans – straight off the boat or first or second generation
  2. Black Americans – those of us who have no clue were we came from and have fully adapted American culture (names like Shanaenae, Daykwon, Ethi, Champagne D’ anything).
  3. Naturals – these are hyper cultural enthusiasts (names like Future and Knowledge)

I have no problem with any of these “types” until they interfere with me or judge me directly. It so happens that this week I can speak directly about all three. My black American self is now dating full blooded Nigerian (6’3 and abs of steel) and I just recently (to my distaste) cohabitated a “natural” venue/event.

Being worldly my buddy ES (Esquire – cause he’s soooo fine and sooo off limits) and I had an Asian flavored dinner and headed for a natural themed event last Thursday. It happened that one of the girls from Floetry was performing, so on a whim we went to check it out. Walking up to the venue I had a feeling things were going to go terribly wrong, an adventure was going to happen in this place, I just wasn’t sure if I’d survive it. As I entered the line the mixtures of Kemi oil and incense stung my nose and the abundant masses of colors and patterns blinded my un-shaded eyes. Where was I? Had I stepped back into a Pittsburgh “Natural” party? Surely these people weren’t as closed minded and would recognize a fellow sista right? Sadly… No. We got looks from left to right and up and down. ES in his stylish UBS attire and me wearing the gitumgirls and nothing else worth mentioning obviously had stumbled into some kind of parallel universe where people didn’t comb their hair and wore clothes to disguise their figures. The dreads were in the abundant and the weaves were hard to come by. Yes its true I’m used to being looked at … I even like it … but not as if I am some traitor or not worthy of the same collard greens as the next girl. It was not as if we were treated rudely and it may have even been the margaritas I had with dinner that expanded the scenario into something that it wasn’t. But photographers didn’t even stop to randomly take our picture! Plainly, I felt uncomfortable and with my dark relaxed locks combined with the three inch stilettos must have looked like Malibu Barbie visiting Africa.

ES and I had a couple drinks and gawked at the funny little bartender with the big handsome arms. It worked for a little while until the thick pork/grease smell began to seep into our pores. The wrangly girl meowing on the stage behind black rock band wasn’t remotely interesting enough for us to endure the torture. Her punk hair cut was the only attribute we commented on. We hightailed it out of there before Floetry girl came on with or dignities in tact…All the while not apologizing for being stylish or having relaxed hair.

A couple columns back (refer to “tale of two dates”) I mentioned a certain dreaded fellow who didn’t cut it in the date etiquette department. Afterward this same man asked me why woman wore weaves. He also stated that it wasn’t his preference … I told him it was good he didn’t wear a weave then. Was he serious? Is this not 2007? I explained to him that it’s a part of a person’s persona … IF we are smart we see ourselves in our own light and care not of what others opinions are – making ourselves into the individuals we had envisioned being as children. I personally do not prefer men with dreads but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t date one. However that IS to say that I don’t prefer the smell of African musk to the new Ralph Lauren Polo cologne.

I say all this to point out that many of us only know one culture. We have all been Americanized. Straight hair or dreads we aren’t Africans, were all tainted. It compels me even more to think that if either groups were to be judged by real Africans neither would probably be accepted. My nose may be small and my skin no darker than a paper bag but I still hold and am proud of a few traits of whomever my true descendants were. Thick lips and wide eyes are enough for me to recognize just who I am. There is no level of black in America among black Americans. Black is beautiful even if its lightskinned.

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