About Writing About Blackness

Black culture ≠ pain.

Recognizing our marginalization is vital but we are not defined by the pain inflicted by white supremacy. Recognize our holidays. Our cuisine. Our dances. Our music. Our languages. How we raise our children. How we treat our elders. Our spiritualities.

I read an Atlantic article recently that alluded to a culture clash between Black students and educators in schools. Title: “What’s Lost When Black Children Are Socialized Into a White World“. I was excited to read about Black child-rearing. I was sorely disappointed. The article didn’t focus on how Black parents raise Black children, or specific cultural clashes with whiteness. Instead, I got the much-covered topic of disproportionate discipline of Black students.

The topic deserves attention. As an educator it’s very real and something I think about and see daily. My problem is with the framing of the article. As if it would be about culture when it was in fact about marginalization. That misdirection plays into the narrative that Black culture is complementary to Whiteness. That our culture is what whiteness does and does not do to us. It misses how Black families raise children as cultural and in ways unique to our culture.

An article titled “What’s Lost When Black Children Are Socialized Into a White World should talk about the unique culture of how Black families raise children and what is specifically taken from that experience when those children encounter white supremacist socialization. It should not center whiteness.

Whiteness is centered when you focus on the punishment. It pushes the narrative that Black culture doesn’t exist outside of the constraints of whiteness. We’ve been and are marginalized–yes–but that’s not our culture.

Write about how Black elders talk to Black children. How Black older children are expected to act with younger Black children. How the community helps raise our children. How we pass cultural knowledge down. What cultural knowledge is passed down. Write all of that without once mentioning oppression or marginalization. Then you’ve got an article that may be called “What’s Lost When Black Children Are Socialized Into a White World”.

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