Like many, I’ve been captivated by the recent programming on OJ Simpson, however, my interest in OJ was less about him being a murderer, and more about what he represented to many and the mass media.
OJ Simpson transcended race in a way that only few Black people in history have managed to. At a point, some called him a hero, not just a Black hero, but a hero to and for all.
Transcending race is a complicated topic that’s entangled in both systematic racism and the ability to overcome oppression. From the house negro, to OJ Simpson and arguably even Fela Kuti and Beyoncé, the ability to transcend race is the dream for some and a nightmare for others. In this first episode for my new podcast series I discuss the idea of transcending race, what it means for the Pan-African diaspora and whether this is a progressive or reductive aspiration.
Guests on this episode…
I’m joined by my co-host Tina Tama, a long-standing friend and behavioural psychology enthusiast; Julian Obubo, PR Account Manager/Head of Diversity and recently acclaimed in PR Weeks’ 30 under 30; Nanda Poleon, Programmer at the Women of The World (WOW) Festival at London’s Southbank Centre; and Carine Kazadi, Marketing Manager at The Africa Centre, London.
My thoughts, extended…
What’s the point of race in the first place?
When we think about race, we automatically think about skin colour possibly people’s cultural or geographical classification. Yet, interestingly, the term ‘race’ was originally used to classify people who spoke a common language, and it’s only as we entered into the 17th century that race began to refer to people’s physical traits. Which means the idea of race as we see it today is a social construct and not anything that physically exists, it was created by a few for the few. Which is why we are where we are today, trying to make simple points like Black Lives Matter, and how this has been perceived as strangely taking away from the notion that all lives matter; because even in 2017, all lives and Black lives are still seen as someone separate. It’s sad, but true.
Controlling the race narrative
There’s an old African saying that ‘until the lion learns how to tell its own story, the story will always glorify the hunter.’ And thus, until we start to address race as something that’s very much here, and explore how we really feel about it, be it embrace it or walk away from the notion of race, we will never take ownership of the narrative and complexities that influence the way we are seen and see others.
So, whilst I see my blackness as very much a part of who I am, hence my blogging alias AFROBLUSH as a clear way of defining my identity based on ethnic identifiers such as Afro and its associations, I also believe that Pan-Africans and our culture should be preserved and allowed to evolve as it so wishes. We mustn’t limit our lives into a limited box of blackness or allow ourselves to feel like a ‘sell-out’ or ‘Uncle Tom’ if we choose to live beyond these conceptions. Thinking about race allows us to relate, but it can also be restrictive, and these lines are blurry and vary on an individual basis.
Me, myself and my blackness
I aim to own by blackness and do not wish to deviate, dilute or descend from my physical and cultural attributes. But as a political instrument, I would be keen to transcend race in a way that frees me from instances where people assume I like certain things because I’m Black, the over sexualisation of my body, the sometimes frantic fascination with my hair and many other myths and stereotypes associated with my Black life. Because it all matters.
watch Episode 01: Behind the Scenes
Thank you, I love and appreciate your comments so much!
vs being black in your art/talent. Making me think about it more and what transcending race actually means. Hope that makes sense…
— snowBass (@bassplex) April 19, 2017
— shabanae (@ShabanaE) April 19, 2017
— Jessica Hope (@WimbartHope) April 19, 2017
The comment is spot on. I say I'm unsure because transcending race has this connotation of being "white" or "fake"
— Kay Akinwunmi (@KayAkinwunmi) April 17, 2017