Stage 3 Blackness
I recently learned about a Black Identity Development model by Bailey W. Jackson III. I love when I am introduced to the academic studies and theories that validate the experiences I’ve had growing up. For this piece, I took a look at the different stages of Black Consciousness as listed in this theory and reflected on the experiences I recall that directly correlate with the academic work presented in making the case for Black Identity Development.
This post was inspired by a workshop I participated in, “How Down Are You?” at the Black Lives Matter Conference at Loyola University, Chicago.
Stage 1: Naïve; early childhood, little or no conscious social awareness of race.
I lived in two countries outside of the U.S. before I was 5, Denmark and Saudi Arabia. My mom has told me stories about people in these countries asking her if she’s the nanny of my brother and I, either verbally or with their body language and facial expressions. I don’t have memories of myself addressing race or having the racial composition of my family addressed at this age, but I do remember being in diverse school settings and going to school with brown kids up until I was in fifth grade.
Stage 2: Acceptance; internalization of “white is right”, what it means to be Black is defined by white socialization, may lead to the rejection or devaluation of all that is Black.
I moved to Temecula, CA when I was in fifth grade and lived there up until I graduated high school. Temecula is a very white, not just predominately white, city and I grew up experiencing microagressions thinking they were a normalcy, that this was my life: having to constantly explain my identity and questioning it myself, never quite comfortable just being. I got all the questions from “Why is your hair so frizzy?” to “Are you white or Black?” I fake liked rock music and punk rock clothing and always wished my eyes weren’t so brown and my hair weren’t so curly. This was up until about eighth grade when there was a substantial amount of Black kids at my school, enough for us to sit together and have a Black table. But even then, I was an “Uh Oh Oreo” and being uncomfortable in my skin was a result of more than just puberty. Never white enough for the white kids and never Black enough for the Black kids, very cliché but very real. I would learn later in life that this is where my inferiority complex was founded.
Stage 3: Resistance; recognition of racism as a complex system, frustration towards white people and white supremacy – rejection of all that is white.
I never realized how much I hated Temecula and my time there until I left. Not the city itself, but more what it represented. I moved to San Jose and attended San Jose State University where I would be radicalized and begin the process of unlearning. I participated in my first protests and became a Black student activist in this time. Although I come from a privileged upbringing, I finally felt comfortable enough to admit that I couldn’t identify with being white or whiteness. While “radical”, I was still confused. How do I embrace my Black identity while still acknowledging that I am white and there are people that I love that are white as well?
Stage 4: Redefintion; emphasis on embracing Black community, less energy on Whiteness and letting it define you; can thrive in white environments with a sense of agency. Defining self through a Black lens.
I’m in between stages 3 and 4. Recognizing that although I am biracial, I don’t identify with being white given my experiences was a big step in my redefinition. While I still actively speak out against whiteness and white supremacy, I’m finding that there is more power in our community and transitioning into spending more of my energy finding ways to uplift us rather than use all of my energy solely fighting “The Man”. I’m defining myself through defining what I need to be liberated and understanding that activism isn’t just protesting on the ground but it’s in my everyday existence. I walk through the world with more confidence just knowing that every time I step outside with my wokeness and continual learning about the world around me, I’m making a political statement.
Stage 5: Internalization, aspirational; Cumulative of learning, awareness, no longer feeling the need to explain, defend, or protect Blackness. The ability to integrate multiple cultural perspectives.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll get here. This sounds humanist to me, which there is nothing wrong with but it’s surely aspirational. On the other hand, I also think I could come into this faster than I expect given that the movement now emphasizes intersectionality and knowing that our fight against oppression is not the only one. These movements within the movement I can appreciate, because at the end of the day I want us all to get free.
Is this a model you can identify with? What stages are you at in consciousness? Share your thoughts below or tweet them!