Anti-Racism 101
Anti-Blackness

with Nicole Andrews and Audrey Elegbede

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The color of your skin dictates how you are treated in the United States of America, and anti-Blackness is at the root of many issues. To further our conversation on racism, we talked to Nicole Andrews and Audrey Elegbede on how pervasive antiBlackness is in our global society

Anti-Blackness

“Anti-Blackness is an ingrained belief, an inherent idea that dark skin/darkermelanated skin is an automatic negative,” says Andrews. “By inference, whiter, lighter skin is seen as the supreme color.” This belief is not limited to the United States; anti-Blackness is everywhere.

in every culture there is a level of antiBlackness or hatred of darker skin. According to Elegbede, anti-Blackness is “a global phenomenon that dehumanizes, inflicts violence upon and silences the experiences of darker-skinned folks worldwide.”

The dehumanization and violence of anti-Blackness can be seen in multiple systems, including differential incarceration rates, school disciplinary actions and health disparities. Colorism— discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone—is a form of antiBlackness. For example, colorism can be observed in the violence displayed by people in positions of authority.

In the context of policing, the darker one’s skin tone is, the more likely they will be stopped, frisked, charged and found guilty of a crime. Recognizing antiBlackness in the U.S. is important because being Black is truly a unique experience.

The colonization of Black culture

Some of the construction of systemic anti-Blackness comes from colonization. When enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to this country, they were not only stripped of their homeland, but also their identities. They were told not to speak their native language or worship their deities and were given no education.

Because of this, many enslaved Africans started to speak English and became Christian. However, the English they spoke and the Christianity they practiced were different from the language and religion of white slave-owners. Aspects of Black culture, brought to the U.S. by enslaved Africans, survived even though the white majority tried to erase it away.

Black cultures and identity were seen as inferior and to this day are often only seen as “cool” or “trendy” when appropriated by non-Black people. NonBlack people love Black culture, but they do not want to be Black.

Andrews describes this as a love of “lite” Black culture. “You love my rhythm, but not my blues. You take what you like, but don’t listen to my struggle or pain.” This act of picking and choosing from Black culture is a form of antiBlackness that is rooted in colonization. Anti-Blackness takes many different forms, but this history of colonization has set the tone for the systems in place that negatively impact Black people to this day.

Day-to-day life

Violent forms of anti-Blackness occur daily; however it’s not always visible to those that do not personally experience it. Andrews explains that one of her daily struggles has been “controlling her face” as a Black woman in a predominantly white workspace. She says that when she has an emotion, you will see it on her face immediately, and because her face is so expressive, people can feel intimidated by her.

Andrews works to be perceived as a joyful human being to everyone she comes in contact with, not just in her words, but also in her face. She used to apologize if her face was “angry” and tell others she would work on it. It was not until she saw Ayanna Pressley, a Black congresswoman, that Andrews questioned her habit. “She gave you face to your face,” says Andrews.

“She did not need to be smiling all the time and was unapologetic about her face.” This realization gave Andrews a breakthrough—that she was not going to apologize for her face.

This internalized self-consciousness is another, deeper layer of anti-Blackness. In the U.S., Black people’s emotions are terrifying because our skins are terrifying. Other Black women feel pressure to “silence their faces” as well. Similarly, Black men are conditioned to hide all of their emotions— to be friendly, but not too friendly.

“It is exhausting,” says Andrews. “We have to think about all of this and do our jobs. It is tiresome, and I have to do it in every space, including social media.” Black people constantly scrutinize themselves in order to not be seen as the stereotypical “angry” Black person.

To live and not think Black is a big task. Black people often find themselves codeswitching in order to “fit in” when in predominantly white spaces. The added responsibility of being a representative of one’s race is draining. If you are not white, it’s an added level of stress and mental energy to your daily experience

 

Code-switching: the practice of shifting between languages or the way you express yourself so as {not to stick out.

De-conditioning ourselves

Anti-Blackness, specifically antiBlack racism, is embedded in all systems and is seen in day-to-day life for many Black people. There are many liberation movements, but as Elegbede says, “If we could focus our efforts on eradicating antiBlackness, all of our boats would float.”

Andrews recommends non-Black people use self-awareness to help them combat their anti-Blackness. Reflect on your personal thoughts and actions and see how anti-Blackness has been conditioned into you. It is an every-day task and hard work, but it’s something to work on together through self-education and learning from Black women. “If we can’t get to equity, we can’t get to equality, we can’t get to justice,” Andrews points out.

Anti-Blackness is at the root of all racism. We have to understand and dismantle anti-Blackness because it is interconnected to all systems of justice. It is everywhere, but the work will help all communities.

 

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About Author

Ashalul is a Rochester resident committed to equity, love, and justice.

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