Last month I went to the Cinema to watch “Straight Outta Compton”.
If you haven’t seen it you really should.
In a nutshell, the film was dope. Over the past year I have really been discovering into my black heritage – our music, our history, our culture and this film added wood to the ever burning fire for information.
I’ve learnt more about my heritage from my job than I ever did from my parents.
I work within the Humanities department in a Secondary school and last academic year the Year 9s and 11s learnt about Black History.
I am of Black Caribbean heritage. My family is from St Lucia, however I have never been to St Lucia to even see my mother’s home town – where she was born, where she grew up until she came to the UK at the age of 14 are all a mystery to me; I cannot speak Patois (broken-French which is the native language they speak in St Lucia). I don’t know how to cornrow, and I even didn’t know what achee was until an episode of Come Dine With Me where a Jamaican woman used it as part of her starter and I only tasted it for the first time last summer at V Festival.
I have no idea about my family tree; of how we came to St Lucia and then subsequently England.
And lack of understanding of our heritage is becoming less and less unusual with contemporary times. Black teenagers throw around the N-Word completely disconnected from its origins. It’s a term that has become separated from its true meaning. White men called black female slaves “n***** c****” as they sexually assaulted them. Black people were destroyed through the slave trade – raped, beaten, children torn from the breasts of their mothers; families broken apart to such an extent that young people like me have no clue about their heritage which is why we have become so desensitized to this disgusting word.
It’s a disgusting word which was once used to insult the black race and yet within contemporary hip hop it is now used with the naïve belief that in claiming back power over that word it has lost its negative connotations. Unfortunately this was one downside to “Straight Outta Compton”, however it is a great depiction of African-American culture in Compton LA in the late 1980s and early 90s where the word was thrown out excessively without any reference to its origination.
I am who I am; I was born and moulded by social and domestic influences, however to know where you come from is also a huge part of who you are and this is something which has been taken away from my generation as well as younger generations and ones to come.
Films like “12 Years A Slave” and “Selma” have been pinnacle to breaking this cycle. Black History while I was in school was limited and even though growing up in London where Black History month is a festival within some boroughs and we also have Notting Hill Carnival, which is why these films are so imperative because they explain the meanings behind the necessities.
It has also become so much more important to learn about my heritage because of the fact that racism still exists today and black people are still suffering police brutality and forcible submission to the point where we have become like slaves once more. Were we ever free? We are only free by the white man’s standards, but what does that even mean?
I used to be ashamed of my black skin. I was ashamed of how my body was so different to all of my friends – who were all white and that I couldn’t stand out in the rain without crying because my hair would turn into an afro (the struggle is real y’all!). The Black Power Movement in the 1950s and 60s taught Black People to embrace their culture and one way off showing that they were proud to be Black was through their hair. This is now changed dramatically. We as a race are made to feel inadequate because this has also become part of who we are.
African and Caribbean people are now forming communities, and forging a new heritage; younger generations are now educating themselves with their history in order to pass on this information to their own children. However, what happens when you have become so Westernised, you don’t actually belong with your own race? I grew up within white communities in the West Country and my father was the “whitest Black person” I know. I don’t know how to “be black” and it shows because I have never really been able to connect with others of my own race.
I only found out that the reason why I look Asian (so much so that an Asian woman in Dublin insisted that I was Asian, called me a liar and then shouted at me in her language waiting for me to respond. All I wanted was a sandwich. I’ve also had Asian shop owners try to set me up with their sons lol) is because my Grandfather’s mother was Asian, hence my mixed appearance. I’ve even been told that I look too Asian to be Black.
I am in a relationship with a white man and I am repeatedly questioned on my choice. A friend of mine is in a relationship with a white woman (he is also Black) and we were both asked by a mutual (Black) friend did we not care that we were betraying our own race and culture? The same friend also asked: “They (white people) don’t understand our struggle! How can you both be on the same wavelength?” I’ve also been told that I clearly am not educated in Black History which is why I am so ignorant to my betrayal. Of course I know what happened to us! Being who is am is not ignorance.
Black people are so scarred that they want to remove themselves completely from white people in order to reclaim their identity. However what about the people like me? The inbetweeners? Where do I fit in? ‘Acting like a white person’ doesn’t make me white and having dark skin apparently does not make me black. While young black people are finally discovering who they are, I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to do the same without feeling guilty.
By the way, I’m not writing this post so that people will feel sorry for me. However, I do feel that this is an issue which is always swept under the carpet.