What is Black Pride? Is it wearing t-shirts emblazoned with black fists or afro silhouettes, bordered in an outline of Africa? Is it wearing Black Lives Matter apparel and protesting? Is it supporting every Black Business you come across? It is all of those things and more because there’s no singular definition.
Today, I want to explore versions of expressing Black Pride that I have witnessed. And while I don’t think there’s a single correct or simple way of expressing Black Pride, I’ll also touch on how I personally go about my own brand of letting the world know “I’m Black and I’m proud.”
For some, an expression of Black Pride might start with their appearance. You might see traditional African dress; African patterns on everything; Black Power/Pride accessories (e.g. I have a hair pick with a black fist at the end of the handle for my afro); natural hairstyles; Black Lives Matter items; and so on.
I don’t think these expressions are meant to make others uncomfortable so much as clearly expressing that, “My comfort doesn’t necessarily require your comfort,” which is different. It is people proudly being who they are and displaying visual cues of their beliefs even if others may not agree with them.
Luckily, that’s one of our rights as Americans. I just think so long as people respect the fact that there are others out there with different views than them (say… a person clad in BLM apparel coming across a person wearing a MAGA hat), we’re all good.
Bringing Your Blackness to Work
One key thing that I think is on the rise with Black employees over the last decade or two is an unspoken agreement to start being more “themselves” at work. I haven’t worked professionally for 20-years yet, but I’ve heard stories. The fear of coming to work with a naturally Black hairstyle or wearing a headwrap has greatly subsided compared to the horror stories of yesterday.
Dr. Nicole D. Price shared a moving account on her Facebook page a few days ago that illustrates this one…
I remember the moment I decided…I. REFUSE!
I became the spokesperson for the black community and “diversity” in the…
Every company isn’t on board with these changing times, but many are embracing allowing their non-White workers to dress and style themselves however they want (within reason) for work. And the move makes sense! People are more comfortable this way, and that leads to them ultimately being more productive because they’re happier. That naturally flows into this next one…
Being Unafraid to Discuss Race Issues
Black People are a little more open emotionally at work now as well, sometimes openly sharing their views on issues pertaining to Black Culture.
I imagine it was much different being a Black person in a professional environment during the time of the L.A. Riots (spurred by the Rodney King trial) compared to the summer of 2020 following the unfortunate video of George Floyd’s public murder (actually, I’d be curious to hear how different that was – I need to reach out to some connections on that one).
And yes, in “discuss” I include being willing to stand up for race-based issues. Protesting. Attending seminars. Community Events. Volunteering. Voting. Advocacy. All of that. I think people do it more openly now than ever before, but that’s built over a history of others who carried that torch before us.
Trying to Set a Good Example
I know people who genuinely take pride in what they pass down to future generations now. Granted, most of the people in my circle who feel this way are teachers or parents, but still – this is a strong source of pride for them. They feel like they are helping shape the next generation of Black People in America and trying to help them become the best versions of themselves they can be instilled with a natural sense of pride in who they are.
So, they focus on setting a good example. They don’t want to look back and say, “Don’t do what I did.” No – this group is more, “Follow my lead and then take this further than I did once I pass you the baton.”
I wish them well.
Support. Support. Support.
The shameless answer given by Issa Rae at the Emmys is a perfect example of a mentality that many feel very proudly. It is a show of solidarity that Black People aren’t afraid to wear, and seen as a constructive way to raise all boats by supporting efforts by other Black faces out there.
Supporting Black-anything may gain the ire of others if that’s the only thing you support. But for some (just sharing here) – that’s what White People have been doing in America for centuries (supporting their own), so they feel justified in actions of ONLY supporting Black things (a practice some may call racist or discriminatory).
Also, some people do this specifically for Black History Month, but a solid common mantra of this group — “Every day is Black History Month.” Think about that and act accordingly.
Trying to Spread/Share Success
I know Black Business Owners and high-ranking employees who are in hiring roles who make it their mission to try to hire Black talent so long as the candidate fits the bill and is debatably better than other applicants. Does this get into that squishy territory of hiring bias? Oh, it definitely does – but that’s where you have to trust that people are making decisions based on the quality of applicants and NOT solely based on their complexion.
I don’t work in HR, and I don’t hire people – but I do wonder how companies try to weed this type of behavior out. Companies have been shown to hire others more aligned with stereotypically White qualities to the point that minorities will commonly “whiten” their resumes just to increase their chances of getting a shot at a position they applied for. And I think there are very human reasons for that – we like “sameness”. It is kind of a tribal quality that may have developed over time for survival (or so I’ve heard).
Whether or not that’s a valid reason for why a White hiring manager might be more likely to hire a White candidate or the same for a Black person – who knows? Each one will say they hired the more qualified “better fit”, so how do you call that into question without completely insulting a person’s morality? It is questions like this that make me NEVER want to work in HR – haha – because that’s a truly complicated issue.
Either way, this is another one I see. Just Black People trying to give another Black person a shot if they can influence it in any way because research shows that the cards are stacked against the candidate.
Sort of a twist on the one before this, there are very successful Black People out there who want to pass on what they know to others through mentorship and connecting them with their network.
Honestly, this is probably the one that I’d like to see spread the most because I think it builds relationships between total strangers and emphasizes us helping ourselves over and over again. That’s a system of pride that compounds and grows stronger over time with bigger results and higher stakes.
Black in (Typically) White Spaces
The last one that I’ll bring up is just seeing Black People succeed in areas that you normally see White People shine in. We are always proud of the “the firsts” and “the brightest”.
Obama, Kamala Harris, Serena Williams, Amanda Gorman, Nia Dennis — you will see names come and go of people who are just doing big things in typically white spaces while appearing to proudly be Black.
And this isn’t because we value their contributions MORE than successful Black People in spaces where Black faces are already prevalent – but I think it’s because we all have some nagging suspicion in the back of our minds on the trials they faced to get there (plus it’s just damn impressive).
How I Show My Black Pride
With the exception of the hiring one (for reasons), I do some version of everything mentioned above. On top of those, I try to study my people’s history when I can because I think there are valuable lessons in those experiences of the past. I don’t let that past dictate my future, so much as inform it.
I also really try to respect my elders. It brings me a great sense of joy to have older generations of Black People take pride in things I do – and I really can’t tell you why that matters to me so much. Like… in stopping and thinking about it – I’m not 100% sure why that resonates with me (LOL), but it does. I think I just feel like it’s a way of saying “thank you” to them in some twisted way.
There are tons of other things out there that I’m sure people will do, but those are just a few that I wanted to name. As our priorities shift in life on an individual level, having some sense of pride in whatever we decide to do (our achievements) or whoever we become (our values) will shape the landscape of Black America because, whether we like it or not – it’s all interconnected and this is all bigger than any one person.