I am the granddaughter of sharecroppers, farmers and slaves. I also am a child born one generation after the passage of the very Civil Rights Amendments that allowed me to go to desegregated schools, go to college and live where I want. I am also the daughter of parents who gave a name by which no one would know their child was Black ’till she got there!
I was taught to read a 4, writing stories at 8, and learned to sign my autograph at the same age. But the thing about that is this. When I was about 10, my father began to ask if I would tell if someone was White/Black over the phone. The irony was I could. I was taught to have a speaking voice along with my regular voice.
Now, to those not of a certain age, let me tell you what it means to have a speaking voice. This means you, as a Black person, have developed the ability to disguise your voice to the untrained (read: White) ear. It becomes a tool for those looking for a job, being a reference, or talk to the police.
Trust me, it helps.
With the acceptance of hip-hop as the newest version of jazz (ask Nas!), there are people all over the globe that love its freedom, expression and all things Black. I grew up right along with hip-hop, the fashion, posters in magazines and the emerging of demos, cassettes and memorizing lyrics off the album covers.
As the popularity of hip-hop–ultimately Black culture–surges, you see more people ‘biting’ off our style! Clothes, hair, shoes–I mean I am old enough to remember what Tommy Hilfiger said. When his line of clothes was popular with the more ‘urban set’? He said that he didn’t really prefer that–why? The Young Black vox populi follow trends, and he didn’t want his brand to be a trend.
From there, Black culture–all things Black– have been appreciated. Or adopted. Sans the Black folk that created it.
Language is a funny thing. It only has beginnings–no real endings. Just dialects, slang, oft used words, grandiose verbiage and new languages foreign to your monolithic tongues. But what I have seen most often now is more non-melaninated people developing Blaccents.
What is a BLACCENT you ask?
Just like I had to develop a speaking voice to deal with bill collectors, college admission counselors and the Ferguson Police Department–a blaccent is what some non-melaninated people (not raised in a dominantly Black environment or urban (city) setting) develop to be or become cooler. The latest example of this is Awkwafina. When I saw how she spelled her name I wanted to fight her!
Like is my culture a joke to y’all? Like, at this point it has to be!
It is the most perverse type of *shifting; the thing that I was told I would have to shed or change in order to be accepted, some random broad can pick up and make a career from?! What part of the game is this?!
My entire academic, professional and personal life I, and other girls of the young, gifted and Black sect must adopt a Becky persona (or as TS Madison says ‘Kelly Anne’) to get some things done. So for famous non-melaninated folk to profit off what we gotta hide? And folk wonder why we as a people make our own style, trends and space! If we didn’t have the ability to quick-change culture, what else could we have?
*Shifting is a sociological term meaning to change behavior to suit a situation.
[images from Pintrest and slideplayer.com]