And you’re beautiful.
But no one wants to fully claim African American. When a black person states their race, there’s always a comma followed by something other than black. It’s great that one of your great-grandparents was another ethnicity, but when your parents are black, so are you. That doesn’t discredit your heritage, but it’s how society will recognize you and it’s who you are. And you should be proud of that.
In 1910, one drop of black blood made you black. And that was that. It was a matter of race defined by law. When I was growing up, I would tell people I was part Puerto Rican or something like that. Then I said I was half Filipino. I was naïve enough to believe that my curly hair and difficult-to-pronounce name would allow me to get away with passing for mixed. But when the jig was up and high school came around, I clung onto the last bit of honesty I had: “I’m black, but my grandma’s mother was part Native American and my grandfather’s mother was half white.”
“I’m black, but.” It was such a frequent phrase falling from the lips of almost every black person I knew. Of all people, I had no excuse. I’m African American. No, like for real. My father is from Lagos, Nigeria and my mother is from Cleveland, U.S.A. When I was in elementary school, America only showed impoverished images of Africa. Gnats and grape-sized flies constantly swarmed around black bodies with skin barely hanging on their bones. People walked around naked amongst the wild. It looked prehistoric.
I was so ignorant. America was selling us self-hate and I was first in line with my piggy bank. But I never did hand over my money. You see, I came to realize how beautiful my black skin is. I fell in love with my name, Enitan Bereola II. It’s perfect. I adore my Nigerian culture. We’re some of the most amazing people in the world. Black is the new black!
America certainly agrees. They love our culture, but they leave out our history. They want to take our twerk, but don’t want to take our hurt. They want to borrow our music and emulate blacks, but don’t want to give credit and award us our Grammy plaques. America’s women want lips like our queens, so they fill their lips up with collagen, then sit behind admissions desks at colleges using those same lips to deny letting our scholars in. This isn’t Black vs. White—it’s wrong vs. right.
We have the most selection of hairstyles from afros to fades, plus we come in all hues and beautiful shades. So enough with the talk of “lighter is better than darker,” because millions of dark slaves were martyrs so that we could live to see our daughters and father a nation who didn’t want us, but we still got Obama! We went from being tolerated to being celebrated and nominated to elevated. Embrace exactly who you are: Black. Strong. Confident. Resilient. Brilliant.
My 2-year-old niece is learning to love herself—her constant curiosity, her timid nature, her ever-changing style, her unique personality, her perfectly black skin and her real hair. She puts her little hands on the mirror and blows herself a kiss because she knows she’s beautiful. We can all learn from my niece.
– Enitan Bereola, II
Bereola is the award-winning & bestselling author of BEREOLAESQUE: The Contemporary Gentleman & Etiquette book for the Urban Sophisticate. He’s also the go-to columnist, public speaker, style & etiquette impresario and celebrity ghostwriter. He’s set to release his next book entitled, “GENTLEWOMAN.” Visit: Bereolaesque.com, Twitter & Facebook for more info.