What Is Black

(I was inspired to post this up after reading a poem by Shanice Nicole called “Race Wars”—you can read it here: http://sheisnotapoet.com/race-wars-written/ It has some similarities to one I wrote. While “Race Wars” focuses on the issue of light skin vs dark skin, this poem focuses on blackness.)

WHAT IS BLACK                              9/7/13

I am more than my race
I am more than my faith
I am more than these labels
The world keeps trying to force
—me to take
I will never fit into your
Cookie cutter shape
Unless you design the shape to
—fit me
I’m me
A woman
African American
With a little Creole on the side

My race is a part
Of who I am
But it isn’t all I am

So I pose the question
The question that’s been asked
Numerous times before

What is Black?

If it is a social construct
Intended to cause division
When using the words
“Them” and “Those people”
Pronouns like “They”
Then if we do away with this
How do we let go
How do we move past
Centuries of oppression

Truth is
I can’t speak for an entire race
A culture of people
And yet I do
Simply because of my ethnicity
So excuse me
Black People
If I bring what you feel
Is shame upon us
But I have to ask

How can I forgive and forget
When I’m taught
It is pertinent to remember
One’s history
Well my history began
With a population of people
Who were forced into slavery

Which by the way
Is now being justified by saying
That prisoners of war
Of opposing tribes
In Africa
Were enslaved

Rumors spread
That those who were sold
And separated from their families
Chose this lifestyle
They chose to be slaves

And it is now being rewritten
That the triangular trade
Only consisted of the trading
And bartering of spices

The light complexion of my skin
Didn’t get here by itself
And I doubt the young slave girl
Laid down for her master

Yet I’m done
Always trying to prove
My racial identity
As I hear the people I speak for
“You know she’s not really Black.”
“She gotta be mixed;
Don’t no Black folk I know
Look like that!”
“She is, too, Black!
Look at her nose,
Those lips!
Though she is real high yellow
And she ain’t got no booty
I don’t know,
Maybe you right.”

I inform them my mother’s side
—of the family
Is from Louisiana
And suddenly
My Blackness has been
Well yeah you Black then.”
So sorry for those light skin
Brothers and sisters
Who don’t have roots connected
To France
Or the Louisiana Purchase

But we each bought into the
That we know what Black is
Criticize Asians in America
Dealing with their own set
Of real life double consciousness
“What am I?
Am I Asian,
Am I American,
Or both?
What does it even mean?”
Do you honestly think
That our ancestors did not run
Into this same issue?
Am I African
Or just plain Black?
If I’m not a Nigger
Or Negro
Than what am I?

Black is not a stereotype
I refuse to be one
Is it defined by skin color
Or physical features?
It can’t be
Because if she’s darker than me
Has a larger posterior
And bigger breasts than me
But has a smaller, refined nose
Than my “clearly” African one
Does that still make her Blacker,
More Black than me?
God had an interesting way
Of putting us together didn’t He?

Is Black limited to how I speak?
Oh sorry, there goes that pronoun
So I guess it works both ways
But in the English lexicon
There is a section
Called AAE
African American English
So someone said
This is how all of them speak
And up until a year or two ago
American English
Derived from so many different
Fifty percent French word usage
Was called SAE
Standard American English
Til I suppose
Too many inquiries arose
Now it’s called EAE
EDITED American English

AAE was the polite label for
Or slang as some of you may
Call it
And up until the Hip-Hop culture
Had taken root
Transcending cultures everywhere
Getting picked up by some kid
Who wasn’t Black
And inserted into their vernacular

Up until that point
AAE was considered
“Bad grammar”
It was poor English

Then it’s wide use
By others
Brought forth new rules
There’s no such thing as
Bad language;
Just bad context.”
Suddenly it’s okay to use it
In everyday conversation
Just don’t bring it into the
Where a high demeanor of
Is required

We grew to accept African American
But why aren’t there
Caucasian Americans?
Or Anglo-Saxon Americans?
Even Native Americans
Aren’t Americans
And they were here before us

I guess
My final question is
When my history is tied
Directly to my race
Then how do I forgive and forget
While never forgetting
Where I came from
And who I am?
How do I forgive and forget
When I’m reminded
Everyday I step outside my house
Especially as a Black woman
An African American woman
Living in the South
Born and raised
Exactly who I am?
Told I’m not like those walking
Stereotypes out there
The ones who took the identities
That were created for them
And maybe,
Just maybe if they hadn’t taken
Then they wouldn’t tell them to
Go back to Africa so much
And while laughing
Share a nigger joke
Ended with another reminder
That I can’t get mad
Because “you people call
—yourselves that
All the time.”

The unacceptable becomes
And yet I puzzle them
Because I’m Black
And African
And African American
With Creole on the side
So that includes French
And Spanish
And not to forget
(And no, not the casino)
That’s on my grandmother’s side
And both of my great greats
Were full blood Native American

The Sadberrys were historically
White plantation owners
The man who started
The Simon family tree in France
Was white
And married a Black woman
Yet I’m not fitting into this
Neat little box they made
To separate me from them
And that’s on all sides

I am who God says I am
And the way He made me
Is just fine
My race is a part of my identity
My faith is also a part of me
My love for writing
My poetry
All parts of the Spring
Winter collection of me
Jacqueline Sìmone Sadberry
But it’s not my entire identity
It’s just another beautiful thing
Of my wondrous makeup

Perhaps the ones
With the identity crisis
Steadily searching for who they
By labeling people
By who and what they aren’t
Are the ones
Who in actually
Don’t know Whose they are
In God

So when you figure out
What Black is
White is
Hispanic and Latino is
Middle Eastern
Let me know

Because even English is a mixed
But you don’t call it French
Even though that’s what it
Primarily is


3 thoughts on “What Is Black

  1. Pingback: What Is Black | Hear See Write LIFE | InnerStanding Isness

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