Can you define Black?

September 9, 2021

In 2021 I pose a question to the world, “What defines being Black in 2021?”

Over the years the definition of what being Black in the USA has evolved or de-evolved. Being Black was at one time an act of defiance towards a racist system of oppression. Interactions and dealings with other races has also been used to define what was considered Black. “What does being Black in the USA look like today?”

With groups like the Black Panthers voicing their opinions and calling police, “pigs,” defining Black in the 1960’s was easy. Or should I say one definition of Black was easily defined. If you go back and watch clips of the speeches by various activists from that era you get an idea of how to be Black. Malcolm X’s famous speech, Message To The Grassroots, is a classic example of this. Black was defined by the struggle to overthrow the oppression of a racist society. If a Black person did not understand this, well maybe they weren’t Black. In 2021 things are much more convoluted.

In 2021 there are many people talking loud as they say, and saying nothing. This leads me to the question, “Is everyone who talks about racism being Black?” It is no secret that there are government grants and TV time for activists who speak out on social issues. I’ve always wondered how someone who receives money from a government, that they claim is racist, is being Black. I recall Malcolm X saying that he would have to know who was funding a group before he could validate the organization. If a pro-Black group is receiving government money are they being Black?

The way Black people interact with other races has become interesting in 2021. When Jim Crow was the official law of the land Blacks interacted mostly with Blacks. Dealings with white people by Blacks at that time were limited and usually business. Is a Black person whose friends are mostly white being Black? For that matter is the Black person who falls in lust with whites or other races being Black? Is it possible that a person who has family members of another race can truly act or be considered Black? Before you answer that think of this, “Is the way Black people deal with and treat other Black people in the USA being Black?”

In the 1960’s and 70’s dashikis were a popular fashion statement and tied to being Black. In 2021 many Black people in the USA dress with the new style aptly named, “I just rolled out of bed.” With that in mind have slides with socks, tights, and skinny jeans become the symbol of Black like the dashiki was? The afro was the hairstyle that represented being Black. Can someone be Black with Brazilian or Peruvian hair sewed into their hair? Can a man who wears their pants sagging to showcase the curve of their behind consider their actions Black? Are all of the above the 2021 version of what defines being Black?

Usually I offer a suggestion to generate thought at the end of an article. As I typed this piece I found myself thinking, “Is there such a thing as a definition of Black?” Who is to say that the person getting that 500K grant for spouting nonsense is not being Black? Who is to say that person wearing the Brazilian hair isn’t being Black? Who is to say that guy wearing slides with dingy socks and pants exposing his rear isn’t being Black? All I will say is this, “Embrace whatever concept you have that is Black to you.”

Frank James IV © 2021

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. “Being Frank” is a bi-weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.