The Black Experience - Introduction
The ‘Black Experience’, the titular subject that seems rather overlooked in New Zealand Society. It is to be expected I suppose, the community isn’t as large as others in the general population, nor does our society have the same bloodied history as most. Yet the question still remains: what is it like to experience being black in this country?
In order to answer this question we first need to establish what it is to be ‘black’. The simplistic view would probably see it as someone with African descent displaying a level of melanin in his or her skin. Those in the know, however, would see that this biological viewpoint is rather limited as it fails to understand the social construct that race dominates.
Like gender, to be ‘black’ is a racial identity that defines the person as a whole. It’s the beliefs, attitudes, perceptions and intimate relations one has in life. To identify as a race, one often shares an intimate connection with those of the same race. Therefore, to be ‘black’ is to be different, and in the interest of being precise, it’s really about being different to being white.
Seeing as physical features, beliefs, attitudes, preference and even name often mark this ‘black’ difference, it’s of no surprise that ‘blackness’ is not a thing to be possessed. ‘Blackness’ rather, is an experience that leaves its impression on a person. In my case, the black experience has been very subtle as my circle of influence from growing up until now has predominantly been white. It’s only now as an observant, intelligent and critical adult that I can see how ‘subtlety’ marginalized I have been within a white context.
To illustrate one example, as a youth I was one of many girls who adored the Spice Girls, Sporty Spice was my favourite. But in cases where I would be role playing with a group of my white friends, I was always delegated to being Scary Spice simply because I was black and so was she. I wasn’t given a choice. Now I know that 7-8 year olds may not understand the concept of racism, but this delegation and lack of choice I was given seems to demonstrate how pervasive, and subtle, the concept really is.
This subtlety is what I want to address in future posts themed around certain topics, so we as a people can open a discussion of ‘the black experience’ in New Zealand. To clarify, though, these ‘black experience’ posts won’t be rants on racism or prejudice, but a critical analysis of the difference being ‘black’ entails in both the society and age we live in. So my fellow brethren, take a walk with me as in the next post we begin by exploring the topic of goals and goals setting.
Until then, the song of the week goes to Nina Simone – To Be Young Gifted and Black.
Strength, Love and Blessings,
IG: thenigmaeffect | Snapchat: bl4kbe4uty
Karla Abrigo: Living by the mantra “to be a strong, intelligent woman with substance and style” she advocates for the capacity in all of us to be the best we can be. Also living by the rule that understanding is the answer to all problems she emphasizes the old Aretha Franklin adage, RESPECT in everything she does and writes with a purpose that, at the very least, everyone deserves that much. So read and be critical, open discussion is what she relishes in as engagement she believes, allows for collective growth.