Perspectives On Black Identity

Map of Africa

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on research for a documentary on the black identity and frankly it’s been a headache. So much so that I’ve pushed the subject to the side for now. After reading many articles, personal opinions, and psychological jargon, I’m in no better position at understanding what the black identity is, or, as according to psychological theory, the steps involved in the development of the black self, psyche, and individual identity.

The psychological studies on identity have historically been conducted on Caucasians and focused on the development of the white psyche.  Identity theorist, Erick Erikson, has acknowledged his neglect of this area of psychology but there have been new developments on the area of race and identity and the new models and schools of thought have attempted to include race as a factor in the development of the identity of black people.

These new directions and research are limited to the experiences of African Americans and do not take into account the experiences of the greater African diaspora world wide or the identity development of Africans in Africa.

It’s here on the internet were one experiences a myriad of black experience. As a writer, blogger, and curious social observer, I’m fascinated by the different non stereo-typical black women I encounter online.

For many years having lived under the stressful stereotypes of what the society I live in thinks is the black psyche, it’s refreshing to escape these often negative ideologies, even if it’s only temporary online to positive examples of members of my race even.

Race and Identity

I meet a lot of black people who are often conflicted about the role that race plays in the way they see themselves.

Many of us don’t want to admit that we struggle with the negative stereotypes and the unfortunate under reporting of positive contributions that blacks have made throughout history, yet most of us are always searching for positive examples of black people in history and modern day.

We do want the black hero and we’re very critical of each other, making sure we don’t slip into the generic stereotypical behavior that has been used to define us for hundreds of years.

Some of us feel that our race does not define us but many of our everyday experiences are shaped primarily by our racial identity.

Many of us spend our lives promoting or stamping out the existence of racial stereotypical behavior in our own personalities and constantly trying to reinforce and promote racially positive behavior while being overly critical of those who display what we believe is behavior that will make our race and therefore our race look bad.

Just a few hours ago, I asked a young black journalism student to write about her experiences growing up in a white country as a member of a minority black community for a community magazine I’ve been publishing for the last two months. She replied that she did not feel comfortable discussing her personal feelings about how she felt about being black.

While I respect her personal opinion, I may have been the first person to ask her opinion on this, but I wont be the last. For as long as she leaves and works in this country, she will be asked how her experiences as a black women would have shaped her career and perspectives on life.

There’s a small and emerging black community in Australia which is as diverse as the entire united nations with representatives from almost every country in Africa and if not the world. Despite our acknowledgment of each others different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we understand that the rest of Australia as simplified us into one single digestible racial  and cultural group, black.

This categorization has been entirely based on race and is completely independent and devoid of language and culture. As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as a unifying black culture although the dominant African American culture has gained residence and is what is used to define the majority of black people in the African diaspora.

Most people confuse me with being African American, Jamaican, and even English. I’m neither of those and I’m very much used  to correcting people of what my national identity is of which I’m very proud of. I used to get annoyed, but now it doesn’t  matter anymore. When I was in New Caledonia, most people thought I was one of the Kanaks (indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia in the South Pacific).

I see many young women these days trying to find themselves. They are forever walking the tightrope of identity compromise, re-modelling the traditional perceptions of black culture and tradition (whether it be African or African American in origin) and blending it modern western culture.

For a long time race has played too greater role in the way that we as black people define ourselves simply because other people judge us by our race first. This has often put us in a precarious position that, when we meet new people outside our race, we are constantly trying to dispel racial myth and stereotypes.

To would be nice to one day free ourselves from this burden of responsibility.

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2 Comments »

  1. Mary said

    Nice article. I learned a lot from this post. Very informative indeed. Take care!

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