School Daze | Whiteness and Wanna-bes

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This post includes personal poetry.

“Well you’re a wanna-be, wanna be better than me!”

Wanna-be

Imitations.

Imitations of whiteness and deletion of blackness you say?

But how must one move forward

Move up

Move out

Without degrading one’s self to attain things

Things we

Did not have

Can not want

Were not inherently given

I don’t mind being black, I really don’t

but I do mind what comes with being black

The blackness that is all consuming without control

I straighten my hair

Not because of the hate I have for the

tight,

stubborn,

unyielding curls that restrict my social mobility

Their strength will be my downfall

The curls grow upwards and outwards towards the sun, towards God

But God doesn’t rule here

Man rules and mans feet are planted on the ground

An infertile obstinate ground stronger than that of my hair

But for the love of ease that is spread through my veins from the root of my hair as the heat consumes every breath of resilience and opposition

My curls loosen and weaken to welcome my new found domination

Domination of my definition

The heat

The heat is inescapable

But it shatters me, everything within me

And puts me back together in a different order

An order of my favor

I don’t mind being black, I still am aren’t I?

But my blackness is now palatable, smooth, silky

White

Restrained, subdued, refracted

Black

I don’t mind being black

But I do mind

 

The wanna-be and jigaboo conflict has been deemed one of superficial themes whose depth is skin-deep. The action of being a wanna-be or a jigaboo is done irrespective of skin color, nor is this decision one of inconsequential repercussions. The hair the and the clothes they wear are the physical manifestation of a predetermined, postcolonial political identity in which one must decide to adhere to a specific portrayal of blackness, and specifically black femininity.  The wanna-bes specifically become one of intense judgment and scrutiny due to the initial indications of aspiring to whiteness and white ideals. Because Spike Lee makes a conscious decision to include women of multiple skin tones within both groups and therefore disproving the simplicity of that theory.

Fact: The wanna-bes don’t want to be white.

Fact: They just want to be better than the jigaboos.

But what does that mean within the context of blackness? The wanna-bes are very concerned with attaining the highest social level possible. They straighten their hair, wear what some would say are “quieter, more pleasing to the eye” colors. But they aren’t trying to please white people. They are attending an HBCU so its not as if they are ashamed on their blackness. The wanna-bes have realized that because whiteness has come to be defined through the lens of power and domination, they have chosen to use that same structure within the black community to redefine themselves in order to evoke that same response from others. Is this perpetuating a very dangerous culture? Can social mobility interpersonally and intrapersonally be attained only through the imitation of whiteness?

One comment

  1. First off, thanks for being so vulnerable and posting your personal writing here. Your poetry undoubtedly highlights how intense the clash between the w’s and j’s is and how crucial it is to understanding the film.

    The facts you’ve set out highlight how interconnected this conflict is with a desire for superiority. Your post reminded me immediately of the fight between Rachel and Dap when she tells him she wants to join a sorority. There’s a certain underlying status associated with sorority life, perhaps notions of superiority. This fight ultimately results in Rachel questioning Dap for only dating her because she is darker skinned. The juxtaposition here between a push for tainted, isolated social mobility and questions of skin tone make your questions all the more thought-provoking.

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