Black Girls in Suburbia Documentary: This Suburban Black Girl Story
Black Girls in Suburbia is a documentary that takes an in-depth look into individual black women who were raised and/or live in a predominately white community. I must admit, the trailer is a bit too melodramatic in my personal opinion. Notwithstanding, it shouldn’t dismiss the actual pain of what these brave individuals share with the filmmakers; the balancing act of being true to oneself while defining, at times reeducating, societal prejudice of what black is and is not, what white is and is not, and what I am as a person am and what I am not. The pain I felt may possibly be the same as the women in the trailer, it’s just I prefer to call the taunting bullying and the idea that an ethnic group behaves, acts, believes, and lives under a monolithic umbrella as a small world view (AKA ignorance). As a child, I had troubles with stereotypes regarding ethnicity due to the fact of being first generation American from parents who came from a predominately black country. On school breaks, from the time of my earliest recollection to the end of my high school year, I would live in the New England United States and Haiti. I had two homes in two different countries. Both countries define race differently. In America, it’s a combination of skin hues, culture, and other factors. In Haiti, it was very simple. Either you were born in Haiti or you’re not. That simple. Regardless of skin hue, it was either you’re Haitian or you’re not, regardless of skin pigment. Contrary to what the United States media displays, Haiti has a 5% non-black, under United States classification of race, population. It also has a middle- to rich-class. The political issues in Haiti were more of classism. In the United States, there are both and our culture facilitates it with “acting black” and “acting white” stereotypes. In terms of classism, there is “trailer park” and “ghetto” when behaviors are deemed by an individual as uncouth or inappropriate. Both terms, that are locations where the underprivileged stereotypically reside, are used to debase another.
My personal, and life, experience wasn’t double-consciousness as defined by W.E.B De Bois as, “a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” My experience is of racelessness as defined in the following passage:
“Racelessness is far more complex because people who transcend race are actually aware of how race negatively affects the daily existence of people of color. They have very likely experienced discrimination, yet they respond by understanding those situations as part of a broad societal problem; one in which they are deeply embedded, but not one that leads to their subscription to racial identity,” according to Rockquemore, as cited on a website for race transcenders.
Someone who is race transcendent, or raceless, may choose to identify by ethnicity instead, or emphasize another part of their personal heritage, such as nationality, language, or culture.
“… According to professor Jennifer Hochschild, who teaches “Transformation of the American Racial Order?”, there are three groups of people that might refuse to identify by race: 1) disaffected (probably white) people who believe the world is post-racial and that we should all be color-blind; 2) recent immigrants for whom American racial categories simply do not resonate nor make any sense; and 3) bi-racial or multiracial people who do not identify with any particular racial category.”
I would like to add to Jennifer Hochschild’s groups of people who might refuse to identify with race, who are white, are raceless (those who would identify themselves as; Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, for an example). They understand “white privilege” in the context of class. I’m sure if we search out Caucasians who reside in a predominately black community, they may have experienced the effects of discrimination from both individuals: white and black. In the case of white, it may be classism or culture. This is where the “acting black” comes from. It comes from the culture of music; since music determines fashion and language (slang), the fashion that identifies with the music genre. I’ve met individuals who take no issue with African-American country singer Darius Rucker (lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish), but will squirm if a male dressed like Eminem (Marshall Bruce Mathers III). For some, Darius appears less threatening than a white man who dresses like Eminem or Black Sabbath. Residing in suburbia, I realized the difference between racism, prejudice, and American culture/society that permits racism and prejudice to continue, in which continues the acceptance of ignorance. Scientific studies have proven that our culture produces stereotypes that individuals adopt, either knowingly or unknowingly. These are stereotypes that continue the cycle of educational tied in with economic disparities.
In the case of talking, sounding, and “acting white” it’s one major root cause that many African-American children faces that prohibits them to excel academically. Many African American children who enjoy a subject or desire to do well in school to secure an economically stable future are oftentimes discouraged with name calling, bullying, and accused of being a nerd, with the addition to race baiting. Speaking proper English is “not black.” Listening to a certain music genre that is not dominated by black entertainers that also influence the fashion culture, is “not black”. Not being interested, as well as doing poorly, in American, ethnic based sports (basketball, football) is not black (American for soccer, in countries outside the U.S. football, is stereotypically viewed as a white sport or a sport for the middle- to wealthy-class). The American media perpetuates these stereotypes and, sadly, people believe them as truth-including the ethnic group that is stigmatized by them. The lack of inadequate funding to areas of poverty (rural and urban communities) is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The living conditions (violence, alcoholism, drugs, etc.) within those communities are what we see this being played out in our politics, media, and music. What’s not discuss, with passion, is the affect our media, and we as people, define what white and black is that is also affecting the academic achieving gap of African-American and Latino communities. As a child, I was hurt hearing such naming calling and bullying thrown at me. Not for myself, but for the individual who threw them at me. It’s really sad that academic achievement is taboo, for the other alternative is poverty, economically struggling/dependency, and, at times, prison.
Living in suburbia, I’ve witnessed that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not that different. Academic excellence in certain communities can be seen as stigmatizing for children. The Revenge of the Nerds is the prime example of anti-intellectualism. The double whammy is the skin pigmentation and culture. For immigrants, and children of immigrants, it can be the added bonus of how much one can assimilate or learn America’s racial classification. A prime example is the use of the words; Eurocentric, Caucasian, and white people. As a first generation American who lives in suburbia, I learned that in U.S culture of race individuals from Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijani are exempt from what is considered Caucasian or Eurocentric. I must admit, to this day, it doesn’t make sense for scientifically and geographically speaking, they’re the scientific term of Caucasian (people from the Caucasoid) and the countries are in Europe. Likewise, I’ve found that individuals in America view the continent of Africa in one monolithic umbrella. When, on the continent of Africa, the black folks also have their own ethnic classification, even within countries. Similar to the difference in culture of northern, southern, mid-west, and pacific coast states, even within the states. So, it is with black girls in suburbia. We experience the suburban life different for many reasons. What we do share with one another is the balancing act or racelessness. What we share with all individuals with our skin hue is the racial disparity, prejudice and/or racism, within individual institutions and individual people; wage disparities, racial profiling of the criminal justice system, promotion discrimination, housing discrimination, and other discrimination based on our race (for black women, both race and gender). Our struggles are the same, but also different. One doesn’t necessarily have to relate to it, just try to understand it.