By Yaba Blay
“What are you?” It’s a question I have never been asked. I am Black. Period. The color of my skin is reflective of my Ghanaian ancestry and by its dark tone, everyone I encounter knows exactly what I am. Although I have lived most of my life acutely aware of the disadvantages assigned my complexion, it is not until recently, when I began to encounter people who identify as Black but don’t necessarily “look Black,” that I began to realize some of the privileges my dark skin carries; the most profound of which is its ability to unambiguously communicate my identity, not only to other people, but to other Black people. They know I am Black. I can rest assured that when someone in the room is talking about Black people, they realize that they are talking about my people. I also know that if I say “we” when talking about Black people, no one looks at me like I’m crazy, no one laughs at me as if I am somehow confused about my identity, and no one takes offense because they suspect I am somehow perpetrating a fraud. My Black is that Black that everyone knows is Black for a fact.
Imagine walking through the world, as clear as you are about your identity, and having everyone that you encounter question and challenge your identity. Or having complete strangers approach you on the street to ask “What are you?” rather than “How are you?” Imagine having to defend your Blackness time and time again. Picture that.