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What Is Blackness: Essay

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Blackness is both a historical and critical position through which Whiteness is rewritten such as to encompass the world’s diversity

There is no one way to define “Blackness”. Does Blackness identify with a particular character trait or does it solely have to do with having a ‘dark complexion? For a long time in America, being dark was equated to having African heritage or having a darker skin tone that was not white. In any case, not every person fits conveniently into a prototypical model of ‘blackness.’ … In its casual definition, the rule implied that an individual with a black relative from five ages back was likewise viewed as black. I find it most amusing when individuals who are NOT of Black heritage think they’re doing the black race justice by saying “I’m proud to be black” but when it boils down to experiencing the Black experience they identify with a different race.

Blackness is both a historical and critical position, particularly with respect to slavery and colonialism which I believe significantly contributed to how we see and characterize ‘Blackness’. Our quest for comprehension in issues regarding race naturally slants us towards blackness, despite the fact that it isn’t the place these answers lie. It has become a typical perception that blackness, and race, for the most part, is a social constructs. on the other hand, analyzing whiteness as a social construct offers more answers. The fundamental issue is the insufficiency of white identity. We don’t have a clue about the historical backdrop of whiteness, and in this way are ignorant of the various ways it has changed throughout the years. On the off chance that you examine that history, you’ll see that the white character has been not any more steady than the black identity.

Blackness becomes a critical position when one begins to question another person’s blackness. The protagonist, Ifemelu who lived her childhood in Nigeria and afterward move to the US, didn’t believe herself to be ‘Black’ until she landed in America. In Africa, you are not Black; you are African. Furthermore, in Americanah, the protagonist investigates being non-American brought into the world Black. She likewise is alarmed that there is no spot in Princeton where she could get her hair braided. Also, in the US, she is ‘fat’; in Nigeria, she is beautiful and big.

Black women, particularly those of a dark complexion, are made to feel inferior as indicated by America’s standard of beauty, so for them, self-love and acceptance can be seen as a way they shun racism. black women are required to relax their hair or get it to look as close to a white woman’s straight hair. This has created a new sense of Whiteness within the black culture in America. Ifemelu, in any case, has chosen to love her natural hair and not expose it to harsh chemicals. In this manner, hair begins to speak to how American culture makes the wrong spot for black independence and beauty.

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Similarly, as with the themes of racism and identity, Americanah brings another subject, cultural criticism which permits Adichie to evaluate the way of life of Nigeria, and America through scenes that are at times hilarious but at the same time make one question Blackness. In Nigeria (especially Lagos), Adichie focuses on the culture of corruption and materialism, where most people get rich through fraud or corruption, officials expect bribes, and women date or marry a man based on his wealth and prestige in the first few chapters of her book. it is evident throughout the book too that Western culture and whiteness are more recognized and valued than Nigerian culture.

Another instance where Whiteness is rewritten to encompass the world’s diversity is the idea of interracial relationships/marriages creating “mixed children”. This within itself puts blackness in a critical position as a new perspective on blackness is created not only in a person’s physical appearance but also in the way they behave. The lighter your skin tone is and the more fluent you speak the English language the more similar you are to “white people” in a darker-skinned person’s eyes. In the film, Half of a Yellow Sun Important themes that are well-developed include the contrast between village and city life and also traditional and modern culture. When professor Odenigbo introduces Olanna to his friends, Miss Adebayo particularly seems to think Olanna being light-skinned is unintellectual, too beautiful, and “impersonating the oppressor” with her English accent. Olanna tries to contribute to their discussions but finally, she recognizes that Miss Adebayo will never like her no matter what.

Olanna has an insecurity that she is ‘like white people,’ as her life has essentially pursued a Eurocentric path. We further see in the movie how Odenigbo’s mother calls her a witch and further insults her about hearing “she didn’t suck her mother’s breasts” which is to say she doesn’t have any sense. Could it have been because she was educated and light skinned with an English accent and resembled nothing of a “village woman” that his mother disapproved of her? Did his mother perceive her to be too European? The diversity within the black culture has posed many problems over the years with what blackness is supposed to look like and also be like.

People of color who identify as black are now put in a critical position such as Olanna as they are now the new Whiteness in the black culture. They are left with an identity struggle of being accepted as “black” and always having to prove how “black” they are to society. This new level of whiteness has created the very classism and internalized racism we see depicted in both Americanah and the film Half of a Yellow Sun.

In closing, Blackness is both historical and critical through which Whiteness is rewritten as there is no one way of defining blackness. I can safely say that colonialism and slavery still have a lot to do with the way we see Blackness in America and have not only reconstructed our thought process on how we see ourselves but also what makes an individual black or white. Slavery and Colonialism also gave birth to “diversity” which is what I call the creation of a new “Whiteness” that has not only changed our perception of what white looks like but has caused internalized racism, classism, and what I like to call “light skin privileges” within the black community, that has in a sense, made the darker skinned blacks feel almost inferior to the “lighter skinned blacks” in America.

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What Is Blackness: Essay. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“What Is Blackness: Essay.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
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