. . . The Negro is aiming for the universal, but on the screen his Negro essence, his Negro 'nature,' is kept intact: . . . I have barely opened my eyes that had been blindfolded, and someone already wants to drown me in the universal? . . . I need to lose myself in my negritude, to see the fires, the segregations, the repressions, the rapes, the discriminations, the boycotts. We need to put our fingers on every sore that mottles the black uniform. . . . It is my belief that a true culture cannot come to life under present conditions. It will time enough to talk of the black genius when the man has regained his rightful place" (186-87).
Many people have many things to say about black identity…What isn’t realized is that you have so many faucets in making the people of (for this issue) Black America, that black identity cannot be defined under what we know and have in the English language. Blacks or Africans were taken from so many different tribes, different cultures which were all lost from stone, darkness and seas called the Middle Passage. In the beginning we share a major definition, “savages” or less likely called “natives” but that wasn’t ours alone, the American Indian shared those terms with us, so then what is black identity? Perhaps slave and term that is and has been used through-out the world, most often meaning indenture servant, for their have never in the history of man have been an suffrage of abuse in the brutality, the time span and the fatality as the people we are trying to identify.
When looking to identity a people we most often times look to culture, we look to their ideas, values, attitudes, behavior patterns and material objects which in inside what anthropologist call the three components of culture. Even with this previous definition doesn’t hold up because ideas and values change within the black American community in just living cross the Dixie line. You have that “southern family value” and the “big city living”, which has been documented by some of the greatest writers in black American history, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright etc.
So still what is Black Identity? Is it how others see us or how we see ourselves? Others have seen us in the past as inhumane, less brain capacity, even with the knowledge that we are the creators and/or masters of science, religion, mathematics, astrology and medicine (There’s a line in Erykah Badu’s Song On and On that goes something like this, “most intellects know who we are, they don’t believe in Gods, but they fear us just the same”). First it was through letters that they, demeaned us the children of the Diaspora, as unintelligent able, taken people, heart-broken, living through the horrors mentally, emotionally and for surely physically of the Middle Passage, still communicating by drum, this cultural shock must to have been to them, our image was portrayed as weak, dumb, did “their” work and the work needed to survive too and was viewed as lazy, shiftless, yet always happy, images that will be shown in closing from the movie by Spike Lee “Bamboozled” and that we seen in a few of the films viewed here in class like “Birth of a Nation “and the black male buck or Mandingo translation in today the male athlete, thug/thuggish or the wanna be white, black professional. The Black woman was viewed as the brute, big mamma, mammy, domestic mule and also a side that is so little talked about is what took place in the Eastern Slave Trade of the black woman being a sexual being, androgrous, like that of the story of Sarah Baartman whose brain and vaginal in 2004 was sent back to her hometown in Africa. Yet there was a steady roll ushered by pioneers like the men on the Amistad and Haiti, Sojourn, Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm and Martin, other political figures the Harlem Renaissance Artist movement had even messengers like Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ray Charles and all most all of our jazz greats that brought about certainly aided in the making of “the sixties” (my favorite period in black history). Black America was defining Black American, through social service, through artistic and political slogans, through self-defense that carried well over into the eighties and remnants seen today. One of the problems in defining what black identity is, is the constant/consistent undermining of “our host” as comedian Eddie Griffin names them, it lays off the shoulders of our overburden/stressed wobble of the black women and the never meant to survive shackled, escape artist black man, bring about the degradation image so widely popular today, (the sag, the dirty look, holey jean, wild no combed hair)even though we are living through a great history in the making out first Black President and first black family, a wonderful representation of the true image of blacks, we have been and on a day to day basis so mentally scar that we cannot even agree on a name or face of black identity. But for a people who have created and continuously create point Ebonics is now a studied language of the black sub-culture.
So I ask you what black identity is.
Are we The Gods and Goddess: Osiris Isis?
Are we the truth made in his image: Jesus The Black Madonna?
Are we first movie images: The brute mammy The ill witted or Uncle Tom?
Are we Dorothy Dandridge Sammy Davis or Pam Grier Richard Roundtree?
Are we strange fruit super Negro?
Are we Bill Cosby or Richard Pryor?
Are we Lil Kim or Erykah Badu?
Or is it safe to say that Black identity is over and under every truth and every stereotype there is, because we are so far as far as scientists to date proof mother of all.