“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” — James Brown
Thanksgiving — what a marvelous word! To be thankful seems a rarity these days, especially when it comes to being Black. I can’t count the number of times just this week that I have heard, “You can’t trust Black people,” “You know how we are,” “I knew they would be so ghetto,”… You get the inference.
What I hear much less often are things like, “My Black is BEAUTIFUL!,” “How wondrous to be the descendant of so great a people!,” “Black people are good and righteous and just,” or how about “Black is so GOOD!”
This weekend I watched Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, and wow! I saw with my own eyes that Willie Lynch is still shaping our thoughts about one another, and ultimately, the value of our Black selves. Women and men went on about “good hair” and “bad hair” in ways that I believe if my eyes were closed, I would have thought the people were anything but Black — they were so misinformed, so infected by the ideology that they repeated the myths over and over, completely unaware.
In NO way am I beating up on women with relaxed hair or weaves, or processes of any kind — when it comes to relaxers, that used to be my thing too. What I am driving at is the deeper context — the closer to White, the better. This is the root of what I believe drives our sense of our hair: it being “good or bad,” not by a personal standard we each set, but because someone else told us so.
In this case, Dr. King reminded us that “someone told a lie a long time ago, a lie that said that everything good was white and everything bad and sinister was black.” When Chris Rock went to hair stores and beauty shops to sell Black hair, there were no takers. A man from India said “That will not sell here; women do not want a bush on their heads” — wow, really?
If we unknowingly perpetuate the myths about even our hair — what Maya called “our glory” in the film — what then, are we telling ourselves about the beauty of our Blackness in general? I can tell you — whatever it is you and your three closest friends or loved ones say about us, that’s the truth you speak about our value. How do our beliefs influence others in the village, not to mention its influence on your relationships with other cultures? What do we pass on to our children about the beauty of our Black?
There was a little girl in the movie, getting her second perm at three years old, her mother having started her on them when she was two-and-a-half, and Chris Rock wasn’t the only one looking on in disbelief.
This is only one example of the ways in which we do the work of the ideology for it — we perpetuate the myths, informed by crooked lies and myths of inferiority, and we infect our babies with it, we infect our friends and as friends tend to have similar beliefs, we reinforce the revisionist history we’ve been taught, and sadly, our children are still being taught.
I vow this Thanksgiving to develop my “Top 10 List” — the top 10 reasons I LOVE being Black. The top 10 things I believe are beautiful about our culture. Then I am going to share it on the radio the second week in December — not so much to tell you what I think, but to work to shape a conversation we should be having all over the village, all the time, but especially as we enter the season of Kwaanza.
I encourage you to make your own top 10 list of the things you find beautiful about being Black, and if you can, call into that show and share your light with the rest of us — we, a group of human beings our glorious Maya Angelou described as vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate brown.
This Thanksgiving, develop the list with your loved ones. Make a copy for each person before they leave, then spread it to every one you know. Resist!
Can you dig it?
Hear Lissa Jones’ radio show “Urban Agenda” on 89.9 KMOJ-FM Thursday nights at 6 pm, stream her live at www.kmojfm.com, or read web posts from Lissa at www.kmojfm.com. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.