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WHAT IS BLACK?

IN TERMS OF PEOPLE, BLACKNESS IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH HOMOGENEITY.

3 MINUTE READ

by Donnyale Ambrosine

Around the globe, no matter where you find the shade of skin that ranges from milky to mocha, deep chocolate to charcoal, as varied as the skin tone, so are the representations and cultures. Yet many reduce the plethora of rich experiences, food, traditions and people to a single term. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey once shared her experience with identity naming in the United States. Musing during a speech that in her lifetime of sixty-some years, she’s been referred to as negro, then colored, then black, African American and now a person of color. Not everyone within this group may agree on how to be referenced. Still, most see and experience racism, oppression and the ever-present boot of white supremacy in social structures worldwide.

As far as how she identifies, “I am neither racially white or black,” says Miya Kim during our conversation in the Facebook group “Third Culture Kids Everywhere.” Kim was born in South Korea, lived in Germany during adolescence and currently resides in Calif., U.S.A. She cites many reasons for complexity in how black people identify, elucidating that, “Being a TCK should not be an excuse to stay indifferent to the matters of white privilege in society.

But, our experiences can help amplify [and] address injustices in the world, including generational effects/ consequences of colonialism, institutionalized racism, exploitation and how they have affected communities of color. ”Afro-Latin TCK Stephany Amalia agrees, saying, “Let’s stop calling people by their skin color altogether and let’s start defining them by ethnicity. Not black people as if we’re one big homogeneous group, but African-American, Surinamese, Nigerian, Ghanaian, etc. I never call myself black and don’t define myself by a simple skin color, but I’m proudly Surinamese/Venezuelan.

My culture/attitude/norms/ values are related to my ethnicity and TCKness, not my skin color. Currently living in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Amilia thinks we should center ourselves locally.

“You can’t compare the struggle of African-Americans to the struggle of Surinamese or Curaçaoans in The Netherlands for example,” she says.

As a TCK, I grew up in a very inclusive, international community, meaning that my experiences vary greatly from many sharing the same skin color as me, as my experiences have been positive.”Amilia feels that by defining self and others by skin color, individuals are reducing their humanity to a single element. “We’re more complicated than that,” she argues.

Speaking to the complexity of the black immigrant experience in the U.S., Itoro Bassey and Ugo Edu bring it all full circle in their article “Anti-Blackness and the African Immigrant,” published on Medium.“We all know that whether it’s Okonkwo or Otis. Walking down the street when the police officer stops and frisks you, or when Karen clutches her purse when she sees you, or when you get passed over for that job because your workplace feels more comfortable with Andy’s ‘style,’ it doesn’t matter if you’re from Lagos or the U.S. south. That’s the black experience. Like it or not, Okonkwo and Otis are linked through a common struggle.”

There’s so much more to be said about that struggle. In the next few pages, we bring six additional human stories from all backgrounds, nations and mixes and to try to put the experience into terms which we all can relate.

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