On Being Regular Black And Why There's Nothing Regular About My Identity

In 2011 Shahida Muhammad wrote an article titled Regular Black: “What Kind of Black are you?”Although I discovered it years after it was published, much of the article spoke about the challenges of defining Blackness and the concept of being a Regular Black.

At first, I didn't think this concept of being a Regular Black was an insult. This was because people around me weren't using it as a way to separate me from Blacks who were perceived as "more ethnic". In the most ignorant of conversations I've had, some like to identify Regular Blacks from the Blacks with "flava". Whatever, the hell that may "mean", in many ways I've been thinking about the way Blackness as an umbrella term has been defined. More importantly, the "basic" attitudes that surround this fact as being Black.

For all those who need a little help in understanding my terminology let's just make this clear. Regular Black is define as:

Over the course of this past year my conversations with people have gone a little something like this:

In trying to figure out what kind of Black I am:

THEM:  What are you girl? Are you Caribbean, African? A Dark-Skin Latina? Where your people from?

THEM: Ohhhhhhh (long ass pause), you a Regular Black.

THEM: Damn, girl ya'll African-Americans don't know how to do nothing? It's must be annoying to be a Regular Black, you need flavas. At least you know some Dancehall and shit.

My thoughts... after an uncomfortable laugh:

Nah I'm straight. Ain't shit regular about my Blackness.

I remember the amount of people I've encountered over the past few months, who've called concern for my Regular Blackness and me being a Black from "America" raised in what they would call "American" culture. I never called into question my Regular Black identity, until it became minimized to being so regular and basic. Hell, when people would ask me what I was, and where I'm from without a doubt I would save them the guessing game: I'M REGULAR BLACK, instead of simply saying I'm a Black woman with family from Chattahoochee, Florida, Evergreen, Alabama and I'm sure some other Black ass place. If I only knew the degree to which I was investing myself in the game of separation.

Aww, the disappointment that would come from some folks

See, the thing about the being Black, the Umbrella of Blackness as I like to call it, is that there is no one group that is more superior, or exotic than the next. Each of our Black identities, customs, culture, locations, morals are distinct and unique to the places we derived. These things add value to our collective Blackness, and the identities we as Black people protect.

For me, I  am the offspring of two Southern Black folks with a rich culture and family history. Even though I have not had the ability to connect all of my family roots, I know they run deep. I know that Soul Food is not just limited to food of the South, but food that speaks to the development of Black traditions across the diaspora.There are just named different things and so much of the same food are cooked differently used with different seasonings and recipes. I know that my love of Hip-Hop, Soul, Funk, and that sweet joy for R&B is because of the Blackness I was raised in. However, these genres over lap with so many distinct cultural sounds. The crate of it's music lives in me and it's as tight as a suit on William Hart.

My food has flava, just as much as my swag and I could teach you a few things about how across the African-Diaspora our identities collide. I was born in a BLACK ASS HOUSEHOLD, LEARNING BLACK ASS THINGS, HAD TO FIGHT THE UNREALISTIC ASS AMERICAN DREAM, similar to many other Black identities. My family is about as diverse as the Umbrella of Blackness with people across Afro-latin, West Indian,  and of course African roots!

I may not know exactly where in Africa I can pinpoint the first of a my family tree, but I know these people weren't regular. Neither were the work they did to survivor slavery, their post-slavery contributions they made to society and the development of the new world. I can say the same for all people across the diaspora who were enslaved.

It is not my ancestors fault they were shipped unwilling to new world and that their descendants became Blacks with "American" Identities. The same identities, you attach your stereotypes, ignorance, and bland Regular Black statements to.

Yes, I know the history between our cultures. I know our Black Identities have clashed over time,and as the collective we have been impacted by systemic ignorance enduring a degree of separation. I'm specifically referring to this concept of African vs. African-American vs. Caribbean etc. From here, the list can go on to  "Americanized" African vs African vss "Americanized Caribbean vs. Island Bred Caribbean vs "Black" African-American vs. "White-Washed"African-Americans. The damn beat goes on.

I guess my biggest problem when it comes to this discussion on Regular Blackness is that we don't even have singular definition of Blackness. My way of defining Blackness may be different among your definition. We can't box Blackness into one thing.It's difficult to pinpoint our Blackness because we don't want to be one group. Even our Ethnic Identifiers can be problematic, especially when defining the descendants of our enslaved ancestors because their journey, enslaved migrations, etc. have morphed into so many things. My question is simply left as what is regular?

For those who have used Regular Black as a way to "separate themselves from blandness":

Your "difference" of Blackness is NOT DIFFERENT to a White terrorist who see us collectively as "REGULAR BLACK" non-people.

No one wants to "regular". And everyone regular wants to be something else...

Hattie was not regular, Sadie was not regular, Thurgood was not regular my beloved grandmother Lisa is not regular, my story, my bloodline, my identity as Black Woman is not regular. 

I might not swing the American flag around at a parade hell, not even the Afrikan-American festival because simply there are so many things I can say about being "American". My position on this land is not the same as White identities and when I hear the word American I cringe because as the not so Regular Black Toni Morrison defined
“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”

I was talking with a beautiful Black man this summer. For purpose of this post I'll note he was born and raised in Nigeria coming to America a few years ago. We were discussing topics about our identities as Black people, stereotypes held among Black communities and how we can unite them. I'll save most of our conversation for another time. However, one thing stood out to me among our conversation on identity. He asked "Charli what are you? I'm interested in knowing what you consider yourself to be based on the conversations we've had about race, ethnicity and identity..."? Instead of saying, "African-American" the politically correct term to use or Black,  I said I'm Regular Black. 

He stopped me in my tracks and told me: "What is regular about your Blackness? What is regular about your identity? To be truthful you are African and although we know there are challenges between African people in the Americas, West Indies and African people who live amongst  continent of Africa your ancestry is not anything mere of the blandness, such a phrase like "Regular Black" suggests. You may not live on an island or have had to opportunity yet to go to your homeland. This does not make you any less normal Black, flavorful or out of touch from any of your Brothas and Sistas".

And shieeettt I couldn't argue with him.

If it sounds like I'm going through the motions, trying to find clarity and maybe going through a quarter-life crisis... I am. I'm in a moment in my life where I'm looking eternally to understand my purpose, journey, my duty to my people, and the role of my people in this society. With this comes questions about the way we Black folks are fighting the system and the way internally issues are fighting us. I just know from here on out I don't want to further subject myself to sh*t the minimizes the greatness of Black is... Black Ain't. Black is many things..but it's anything but regular.