Is Black Really Beautiful?
Today, due to the impending Thanksgiving holiday in which our school week will end on Tuesday, I decided to show my 7th grade Technology students a movie. The movie, entitled Brother Future, is about a black teenager who does not take his education seriously. He daydreams in class when he should be listening to the teacher and taking in knowledge, he skips school whenever he feels like it, and he steals goods and resells it later to his ever-waiting customers. Well the teenager gets hit by a car and is propelled—not into the future—but back into the 1820s when slavery was in full swing. The purpose of my showing the movie was to help the students identify with the age of the character and his learning that education is a vital component of being successful and is directly connected to the quality of life one will have in the future.
During the film, my students’ eyes were glued on the projection screen, which enlarged the movie to such a degree that it could be viewed from almost any angle in the classroom. My students began to ask me questions about what they were seeing in the movie. For instance, one student said, “Why can’t he tell them he is not going to pick cotton in that field?” Another one said, “If I was back there, I would not do it!” Another asked, “Why does that slave have to go around to the back of his master’s house and not use the front door?” The questions and comments went on throughout the movie, and I answered the questions and joined in the conversations that had sparked many interests about slavery and education, or a lack of Black education, during that time period.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and I moved from the corporate world of business to teach—to make a difference. I am not a history teacher—although I do know history facts and can produce a decent answer when questioned. But what astonished me is that my Black students (for the majority of them are Black) did not know many facts at all about the history of our own people. Sure, some students could tell you that they were told that lynching and beatings and unfair treatment took place, but they seemed surprised about many things that were taking place in the movie. So I asked them, “Does your History teacher talk about slavery in your class?” Most of the students said, “No”. “And if the teacher does, it is only just for a few minutes and we move onto something else.”
I realized in that moment that many of Black America is ignorant about where they came from. Some of my students did not even know that Charleston, South Carolina is documented as being the place where the first slaves were brought to when they landed in America.
Later that evening, I came home and read an article by Michael Oluwagemi II on Nigerians In America entitled, Mark My Words . . . Nigeria and Africa Shall Be Free. I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say, for I know, by personal observation, how much poverty has taken hold of Nigeria. I have never been able to get those images out of my mind—and I do not want to—for it is what holds me to her (Africa) in my heart. I simply love Africa and its people—although I hate to see the suffering of my people. However, I think another type of poverty has taken hold of Black America, and that poverty, to me, is cultural and ancestral ignorance.
I wrote an article entitled Disconnected from the Motherland some time ago, and after today’s experience, I believe Black America is also disconnected from themselves and their own African history. We are failing to teach our children where they came from—never mind going as far back to the Motherland (Africa), let us at least start at the point when our African ancestors were shackled, chained, and brought into Charleston, South Carolina and sold into slavery.
I wondered why we Black Americans changed our ethnicity name from Black to African American. Who thought of that? Did someone say it was politically correct to be named such? When I think about how much Black America do NOT identify with their African brothers and sisters (as a whole), why do we love the name so much then (African American). Are we merely interested in the theory of Africa but not in the identification with it? I am afraid for many that might be the case.
I have noticed that our Black children do not mind being Black as long as their skin color is not TOO BLACK. Most of them will tell you that they do not want to be to dark skinned and cover their mouths in a grin when they say it as if embarrassed by their admission. If you are light skinned, according to them, you are in another class of “blackness” (a better class as far as beauty). On more than one occasion, my students have referred to a dark-skinned person as an African. They forget in that moment, or at least I choose to believe it was not intentional, that my husband is African. I will say something like, “I guess you have forgotten my husband is African!” Then they will say, “Mrs. Daboh we did not mean any harm.” I remind them that some of the most beautiful men and women in this world are Africans, and they come in all shades of colors like we do. If young Blacks feel that way now and hold those prejudices within their own race of people, I wonder how their children, who will be reared by them, will think of a dark-skinned, Black person or an African.
Nigeria and Africa in all their poverty is really just a heart beat away from the ancestral and cultural poverty that Black America suffers. Are we allowing our Black youths to be groomed to believe that “black is not beautiful?” Is the saying, “I’m Black and I’m proud” just a cliché? I am afraid many Blacks do not mind being Black, as long as it is not TOO BLACK.
Will Black America’s poverty stricken attitude against its own culture prevail to the point that we are, not only ashamed of ourselves, but ashamed of where we originated from? In our eyes, is Black really beautiful?