Blackness Is Not a Monolith, But It Is a Collective Consciousness
I don’t share a history of enslavement with Black Americans — but what we do share transcends oceans and generations
“Story, story, time, time.” The echoes of my childhood reverberate in my mind, reminding me of when I would sit with my African Giant of an aunt as she retold Urhobo folklore to wide-eyed Black children in 1990s Britain. It was different from what we were used to in our south-east London classes. We sat with our legs crossed on the carpet, poised and ready to journey to story-land, but to our surprise, our beloved aunt-teacher was not reading from a book: instead, she reiterated stories passed down many generations from the connected consciousness.
Soon we were transported to a dense rainforest, where a fierce lion mimicked the voice of a child’s loving mother, in order to lure her out. “Bubẹ!” The lion would repeatedly roar the name of the female, Urhobo Macaulay left Home Alone. Who on God’s good Earth leaves their child alone in the middle of the jungle? I was appalled, to say the least. My sister is still petrified at the mention of that lion, even though she’s in her mid-twenties.
There is an unspoken privilege to my upbringing that ought to be discussed now more than ever. The privilege of knowing where one comes from, knowing one’s ancestry in depth — because Black people are not a monolith, and not all Black people were enslaved. Upon deep reflection, I cannot help but feel that the anger of those who cannot trace back their heritage is different from the rage I feel towards white supremacy. And that there appears to be a gap in the narrative of Black people, because this stereotype of the Black monolith has been internalized. Meaning that you cannot easily find the stories of Black people who reside in the U.K. not as descendants of those enslaved, but rather as a free people who looked puzzled at the primary school teacher when she pronounced, “Black people were slaves.” Being a Caribbean woman herself, I was stunned by the blasé blanket statement she made, wondering if perhaps she believed this was the best way to communicate that some Black people were cruelly enslaved, and that this was a stain on Britain’s…