Once upon a time in 1999, I was to wed a fellow, let’s call him, Grady McShady. I was in the midst of planning a wedding that McShady kept getting more and more controlling over. Then, when I was at wits end with him he told me he wanted to be married in full African regalia and I tried really, really hard to wrap my head around it. I tried to see the kente cloth, the royal blue bulky fabric, the unflattering shape that was not a white, poofy dress and tried to imagine it on myself, but it was so, so hard. I tried to bargain with him, that maybe he and the other groomsmen could wear kente cummerbunds and we could jump a broom but he put his foot down saying he would either get his African wedding or there would be no fancy ceremony at all.
So we got married in 2001 at a justice of the peace in Texas.
Long story short, it didn’t work out. But the point of this story is that I learned from my ex that there was a limit to my blackness. I told him I did not want my wedding to be a political statement. It is obvious that we are black people. It is obvious that we are from African descent, but I am an American woman. I want my big poofy white dress! I want big hair and Luther Vandross singing “Always and Forever.” Didn’t he understand you do not rob a woman of her dream wedding? So even though my future ex-husband McShady threw it in my face that my blackness was questionable because I didn’t want to wear this, his threats did not change my opinion about this dress debacle. There were other issues in that past relationship that I’ll probably blog about another day, but basically, what I want to know is … what is your limit to your blackness?
Some folks limit are defending R. Kelly and other black superstars who screw up. Others it’s using the term African American when they feel they have nothing to do with Africa. Some go into apoplectic shock over Black History Month (either because they hate the cheesiness or are insulted about the whole cramming-150-years-of-black-history-in-28-days thing) I draw the line at using weddings as political statements and celebrating Kwanzaa*.
I will teach my future children black history. I will drag them to the Civil Rights Museum and the Slavery Museum whenever it ever gets finished. I will tell them about Barack Obama’s run for the presidency and encourage them to love and embrace their culture and the beauty of black people, African and African American alike. But I’m not wearing traditional Nigerian garb at my wedding and I’m not celebrating Kwanzaa.
And OJ killed Nicole Simpson.
That said, what is your limit?
*Seriously, no disrespect but what the hell is Kwanzaa? As a reporter I was constantly assigned the black folks charity/pity assignment that was the Kwanzaa holiday. My editors never wanted to hear about black folks the other 359 days of the year, but come Kwanzaa time there’s a pathetic attempt at acknowledging that Negroes exist. No matter how many times I was explained the significance of the days and how the holiday encouraged blacks to have better self-esteem, be business-owners and foster stewardship over their communities I would have to do my damnedest to stop the eye-rolling. We couldn’t discuss black stewardship and fidelity on another holiday? Holidays are supposed to be fun or profound, not a civics lessons. Take Juneteenth, a black Texas holiday I celebrated as a child with my Texan-born father. It’s about celebrating the end of slavery. Now, that’s a holiday! That means something! We’re FREE, let’s throw the biggest party Texas has ever seen! Don’t make up a holiday when there are perfectly good holidays (King Day and Juneteenth) that are often under celebrated by blacks.