Reflection and Findings

“The Power of Black Self–Love” class taught by Dr. Stewart and Dr. Troka has caused me to redefine love as a young black woman and make positive changes to my love ethic. In my self-love journey, I have found that currently, my greatest obstacle to self-love is the policing of blackness and the black experience. When I say, “policing” I mean the imposition of expectations or qualifiers for what the black experience should resemble. Because the policing of blackness has been so prevalent in my life, I wanted to address all aspects of policing in my end-of-term project: from the implicit biases that drive policing, to the effects that policing has on young black people and finally the resistance of policing via self-acceptance. “It’s a Love Thang: Lovin’ The Black Experience” is a glimpse into my understanding of the policing of blackness. It consists of loose transcripts of various conversations and interviews I’ve had with Emory students about the policing of blackness. What I have found in my life and in the lives of other black Emory students is that the things that we tend to reject about ourselves have been related to the policing of blackness in one way or another. With that being said, the goal of my project was to shed light on the policing of blackness while also celebrating the things that black people love about themselves because there’s power in reclaiming something that was once used to oppress you.

I did this by breaking my project up into three parts. The first part was investigative. I wanted to see if people of all races would admit to having the stereotypical expectations of black people that are commonly used to police us so I had casual conversations with a few students about their implicit biases. This was the most challenging part of my project by far because people are reluctant to admit that they have racist tendencies and it didn’t help that I am black. Unfortunately for me, this led to a lack of evidence for the policing of blackness, so I relied more on the accounts of students I talked to. This leads me to the second part of my project: I interviewed three black students and asked them in more in depth about their experiences with the policing of blackness. Each of them had varying backgrounds yet had all experienced similar instances of policing. Others policed the way they spoke, expected them to be athletic, listen to certain kinds of music, and be of a lower economic class. My interviewees pushed back against these expectations. One interviewee Nia told me that she talking was with her cousin and used the word devour and her cousin asked her why she was so whitewashed. Nia went on to say that devour was a normal word. When I asked her if she had overcome that policing she responded with, “Now I’ve accepted it and I’m not gonna change, I like to read and learn new words… I’m not gonna change that for someone else.” Finally for the third part of my project I surveyed black Emory students asking them what they loved about themselves. The answers ranged from “I love how honest I am” to “I love my skin”. They varied from general things black students loved about themselves to things related to their black experience and that was intentional on my part. I wanted the responses to vary because black people vary. If nothing else is taken from my project I wanted people to understand that black people are more than the expectations placed on us and that we are black regardless of if we fit the expectations or not. I chose a word cloud because my project is very text heavy and I wanted to provide a visual interpretation of what the text said. I used the fist to signify the strength that I feel self-acceptance embodies and the different shades of brown and black and tan were meant to signify the variety that blackness can have, in attributes and shade.

Reading the results gathered in this survey was the most rewarding part of my project. Being able to see the black self-love was amazing! It made me giddy to see so many black people appreciating and loving various aspect of themselves. Overall I found that the policing of blackness was prevalent in many young black people’s lives, but also irrelevant in some young black people’s lives and that too was rewarding because I understand the pain that comes with policing. Lastly, my main finding was that the people I talked to have overcome their policing and realized that conforming to fit that stereotypical mold wasn’t worth it.

Implicit Biases:

  • McKayla is different from the black people from my community (New York). She speaks more eloquently. My expectation is that black people do not usually speak eloquently. Black women are more willing to “put themselves out there.” (Relationship wise, defending themselves wise, etc).
  • “rapper blackness” – coercive, misogynist, powerful, forceful, and harsh
    “in between person”- delinquency/ low level crimes that white kids don’t get caught doing “sophisticated blackness” – focused on education, getting professional jobs (white collar jobs), family oriented, urge to form a nuclear family, both parents present
    How this applies to my life: At first, I did not perceive McKayla as black because of economic status, clothing/white clothing, socially white.