There is no one-size-fits-all option to being Black

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor


A word that carries an array of connotations. To some, it’s just a color; others understand its existence as a race. There are many who associate it with hate and discrimination; while there are those who find resilence and strength behind it.

To me, it is power.

Being Black is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences to exist. There is no denying that there has been an ever-flowing stream of greatness from the Black community. From art to music to knowledge to activism, the Black community has provided versatility and efficiency in every field. 

There is a misconception around what it means to be Black — a false narrative behind a “true” Black person. Let me set the record straight: There is no one-size-fits-all option to being Black.

Being Black isn’t all hip-hop and good food; it comes with generational trauma and invasive insecurities. Growing up in a world that hates you for the simple color of your skin is exhausting. We live to disprove stereotypes we didn’t create and meet beauty standards we didn’t set. We have to work twice as hard just to level the playing field. 

Yet, we persevere.

That being said, Black people continue to struggle with our unity. This isn’t a comment for anyone else outside of the Black community. However, as a collective, we must call one another out on the intensively divisive standards we set within our own community. 

For the longest time, there has been a running joke in the Black community of an individual’s “Black card.” It’s basically a Black person’s entire identity condensed into this idea of a card. Your card, like any other card, gets your privileges and rights that only someone with the card has. However, there is a debate about whether or not one’s Black card can be revoked.

This possible revokage of one’s Black card is actually an extremely divisive and toxic concept that must be removed from our community. To dictate what a “true” Black person is completely invalidates the reality of the diversity present in the Black coalition. 

I’ve always found that the “true” Black person falls into many stereotypes that were originally created by white folks. For example, this notion that Black people only listen to hip-hop music and watch BET. I’m Black. I don’t watch BET and I listen to a combination of alternative R&B and soft jazz. Black people aren’t all “sneakerheads” who exclusively dress in streetwear. While some of us do, some of us also prefer to stunt our schoolgirl look or the latest cottage core trend.

Being Black can be full of art. Being Black can be full of knowledge. Being Black can be full of wealth. Being Black should not be boxed into one category.

The point of a community is to have an array of people who bring different attributes that the collective can benefit from. There are Black people who make our entertainment: our music, our television, our artistic culture. There are Black people who take to the streets and protest against the injustice plaguing our people. There are Black people who write poetry and drink tea. There are Black people who have a passion for video games. Black people come in all different shapes, sizes, personalities and lives.

In trying to joke within our community, we have created a monster of divisiveness. As Black people, we need to realize that our power lies within one another. We have a linkage that nobody can experience — nor break, but ourselves. To marginalize our own people within our own already marginalized collective is disheartening and unacceptable. 

There is a certain admiration that comes with a group of people turning the hate and violence they endured for their skin color into peace and power. One of the Black community’s greatest accomplishments has been reversing the stigma surrounding their race through protest and talent.

Black unity is greatness. To stand behind the single cause of wanting better for our community is enough to strengthen our bonds. 

Angela Davis once said: “Unity by itself is abstract. Unity makes more sense when there is something around which we organize and a reason for creating the unity.” 

The reason is our bond. We are different; but there is a subliminal chain that connects all Black people. We must unite behind one another and absolve each other of these unattainable standards of what is and what is not Black. We are beautiful in our Blackness — in all different types of our Blackness.

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