While talking to Panama a couple weeks ago about the reaction to the post about Pharrell’s GIRL cover and Black male privilege, the conversation somehow segued to us discussing how different our backgrounds are, especially when it comes to the ambiguous and amorphous concept of Blackness.. He’s biracial, lived in the Blackest state on Earth (Alabama), the Blackest city on Earth (Detroit), and Germany. (Yes. That Germany.) He also went to an all-boys HBCU, and currently lives in the Bougie Black Person’s Mecca (Washington, D.C.).
I grew up and still live in Pittsburgh, PA –– the Whitest major metropolitan area in the country. I also lived on one of the most dangerous streets in the city, but I was somewhat insulated from that because my parents sent me to private school in the suburbs and, from the time I was maybe 12 years old, I was a star basketball player. (By my junior year in high school, we moved to that suburb.) This awkward simultaneous connection to and distance from Blackness continued in college. I went to a predominately White university, and I immediately immersed myself with the BlackBlack people on campus. As a junior I was an officer in the Afro-American Society, and my senior year I was an editor of the Black newspaper, The Nia News. But I was also a scholarship basketball player. Which meant I was immune to many of the issues Black students faced.
The conversation then shifted to how the uniqueness of each of our backgrounds, upbringings, and character traits (both learned and innate) controls each of our thoughts and actions today. None of our beliefs, opinions, personalities, and biases happened by accident. All earned their way to be with us.
Maybe I’m not as dogmatic about love and marriage if I didn’t grow up in a household with two parents deeply in love with and committed to each other. Maybe I gravitate towards the back of every crowded room I’m in today because of residue from being so self-conscious about the shape of my head as a kid that I made sure to sit in the back of every classroom so there’d be no one behind me to tease me about it. Maybe I don’t finish our book and make the decision to write full-time if the program I worked for at Duquesne University doesn’t lose its funding…and maybe I don’t end up at Duquesne if I didn’t get tired of being in the classroom…and maybe I wouldn’t have gotten tired of being in the classroom if I taught at a better school district.
Anyway, to quote Dr. Henry Louis Gates, if there are 40 million Black Americans, there are 40 million ways to be Black. I just shared a couple snippets from my Black American story. What’s yours? How did you come to be who you are today?
(And, if you don’t happen to be Black, but happen to be reading this, share your story too. We’re all family here and shit.)
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)
For the next nine days, you can purchase your own I Love Bougie Black Girls t-shirt via Teespring for the insanely low prices of $11.50 for a men’s shirt, $13 for a women’s shirt
and $24.50 for a hoodie.
The campaign ends Sunday, March 23. We’re already halfway to our goal, but we still need to move a few shirts to reach it.
Anywho, they’re available now, so go and BUY!!! and be fly.