Apparently, the name of my blog is controversial. OOOH. A conversation I had with a fictional (fake) friend prompted me to “address” the meaning of my blog name. Okay here’s the situation…
We all have at least one acquaintance that sneaks into our lives despite our better judgement and sticks around like a scab we just keep picking. By the time we decide to leave the scab to crust over and heal, a permanent scar has developed underneath. Because we believe that deep down she truly is a nice person, we make excuses for her passive aggressiveness. She means well. Bless her heart. *slow sigh*
Mostly we tune out her obnoxious, narrow-minded commentary hoping that our disinterest will signal her to switch topics. She really is a good person most of the time. Once in a blue moon, our backdoor compliment dishing gal pal will hit upon something that is really interesting. This is not one of those times. However, she did make me think about language in general and particularly how we use words for different purposes. Our little mock friend took it upon herself to define AnthroNegra upon discovering that I’d finally started a blog. She texted me the news.
~did you know that anthro is a dc
comic neanderthal and negra means slave?
~That’s not what it means.
~you’re calling yourself a neanderthal slave
~(NAME) that’s not what it means.
~Why did you use that ugly word? negra?
Seriously, why am I still her friend?
Actually, Anthro is short for anthropology (the study of humans), which was my undergrad major. Negra is a term of endearment that I picked up from my Puerto Rican peeps. Basically, I named myself a really cool chica who studies humanity and keeps an ethnographic journal detailing her observations—EXACTLY like my real life self. Still, our friend has a valid point. There WAS a fictional character named Anthro. Negra IS the feminine form of the American term Negro, which has historically negative connotations to some people. Depending on your background knowledge, you could find my blog title offensive. But why would you want to? I’ve told you my intentions behind the name, so the choice is yours. Take it as it was intended or get butt hurt over something innocuous. There are tons of real issues you can get mad about. Don’t waste your energy on this.
Language is a powerful tool. It can be used to subjugate a population or subvert a kingdom. Words can construct a culture or demolish a sense of personal pride. When we use language that has been saddled with centuries of cultural baggage, we must be prepared to deal with mixed emotions. The word Negra, or any terminology referring to Black Americans, could be a trigger word that elicits emotions ranging from mild irritation to outrage. Westerners (and a large majority of colonized people across the globe) have been enculturated to associate whiteness with purity, cleanliness, good and God. At the same time we correlate blackness with dirtiness, sin, evil and the Devil. It is not surprising that a White American woman would want to save her “naïve” Black friend from the backlash of such an “ugly word”. She means well. Bless her heart.
She cannot understand the pleasure of usurping a term and claiming it as a positive moniker. She will never grasp the fact that my very existence is a daily rebellion. I am a beautiful, black, educated, woman —a subversion of the ubiquitous idea that all things black are bad. I grew up learning to love myself within a society that surreptitiously declared me to be belligerent, ignorant, unattractive and unworthy of love. Therefore, I choose to use Negra in the way that you would call a beloved woman Darling, Dear or Sweetheart. I refuse to play into the notion that Negra is an ugly word because it reminds people that I’m Black. I AM BLACK. I’m proud of my lovely dark complexion. Besides, I can be shy and docile one minute and flip the script into belligerence a minute later. Guess what, people are complicated that way.
I am claiming black as powerful, peaceful, marvelous, pretty and everything that is good and loving in the world. I feel like a black-hat superhero. *wink* Go AnthroNegra! Thanks Friend!
P.S. The details of this account have been fictionalize for brevity and to protect the identity of parties involved. The likeness of any persons, living or deceased, is totally intentional.