In the last couple of years, we’ve seen debates and protests across North America that have sparked outrage about race and race relations. I am asked this question so often: “What are you guys so angry about? Martin Luther King didn’t die for this.” Instead of rolling my eyes, and criticizing them for their ignorance, I recite the words of Malcolm X: “Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” Educating yourself and informing others is essential to the objective of those who wish for equity. To do this, I proceed to ask myself, what are we so angry about?
Black people throughout the world have been taught to assimilate and conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. We are taught to forgo our individualism and culture in order to survive in white supremacist societies. I can recall many instances where I was confused about my Blackness. I’d look to my right, and I’d see an array of white women on magazine covers. I’d look to my left, and I’d see a lack of diversity on my television screen. I’d look forward, and see my reflection, not sure whether to love or loathe myself.
Instead of believing that I was beautiful, I picked up chemical relaxers and a straightener. Little did I know, even with multiple products in my unruly hair, I would never be truly able to assimilate. Who I truly was was inescapable. Dami Kolade, an anthropology student at UTSC shares, “It’s hard to love yourself when your true self is not accepted. There’s nothing I can do about who I am. I need to love my lips, my dark skin, my body. We’re getting to a point where Black people are starting to love themselves, regardless of what people think.”
There’s a certain confidence that is rising among our young, Black generation that I am proudly taking part in. Social and musical platforms have given Black people the representation that is sorely lacking in mainstream media. Pages on social media specialize in showcasing Black people and their diversity, and are giving communities the courage to rise above microaggressions and racism. It’s beautiful to see people loving themselves. By denying inferiority, we can create opportunities for people of color that might not have existed.
Musical artists like Solange have also contributed to showcasing the pride of Blackness. With her new album A Seat at the Table, she both educates and converses with her audience about self-love and acceptance. Despite the backlash from those that can’t seem to understand the social uprising of Black people, we continue to fight back and create new opportunities for ourselves. This sort of rebellion is becoming an essential part of our activism. By simply showing pride in where we come from, we display our unwillingness to conform.
Social initiatives have played a huge part in my self-reclaiming. One of the best things I have personally done for myself was cut off all my processed hair. After watching countless YouTube videos, and seeing posts online about the benefits and versatility of going natural, I knew that the ‘big chop’ was the next step to figuring out who I was. Although I was reluctant, in March of 2015, I picked up a pair of scissors and snipped away. For me, choosing to go natural was the closest I could get to being myself, and up to this day, it serves as a reminder that people are lovely and magical, just as they are.
Nowadays, a familiar voice constantly echoes through my head saying, “You’re beautiful”, and this time, I believe it.