Clarissa Nickerson Fourman

Clarissa Nickerson Fourman is an occasional guest on WDWS’ ‘A Penny for Your Thoughts.'

Someone once told me that if you feed the Black community negativity, you can control them. That person is now a highly elected official in Champaign County. Be careful who you vote for.

Black trauma is profitable. Record companies release records with lyrics about murders daily. California just passed a bill to limit the use of rap lyrics in criminal convictions.

Black trauma makes great movies. But what about the people who live it and relive it every time it is made into a song, TV show or hit movie? Why must we continue to be reprogrammed with the same trauma?

I’ve been called a coon by a knockoff Malcom X. My initial reaction was to defend myself and say “Of course, I’m Black.” What? But then I had to think about it. Think about the things I have lended my voice to, things I have fought for, the issues I have stood on. And I realize that the issue is not my Blackness. The issue is the faulty expectation of what Black is supposed to look like.

I’ve heard “you’re not Black enough” as the only valid counterargument to things I say for quite some time now. But this particular word being hurled at me was a first. I’ve never had people question my intelligence or my passion. The only thing I’ve heard is, “Well, she’s not Black enough.”

What is this “Black enough” I’m supposed to be chasing? What is this checklist of whether or not I am Black enough? What statistics do I need to rattle off to prove my Blackness?

Grew up in poverty. Check. Drugs that I’ve never consumed ruined my life. Check. Foster care. Check. Teen mother. Check. GED. Check. What other statistic do I need to list to prove I am, in fact, Black?

Why does my Blackness have to be tied to suffering? Why is Blackness constantly tied to poverty and not success? Why does my Blackness have to be tied in with how I view the police, crime or any other issue in our community? I know that the value in who I am isn’t tied to my Blackness, but why is that used to devalue me as a person? What does my Blackness have to do with my ability to help my community?

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Why is Blackness often tied to poverty and not success? Why is speaking articulately called “acting White”? Why does someone have to experience an extreme amount of suffering to be considered Black enough?

I’ll go even further. How much of the gun violence this community has experienced can be placed at the feet of “not being Black enough”? If you’re Black enough, you’ll pick up a gun and defend yourself. If you’re Black enough, you’ll get revenge for the death of your friend. Do you see how that sounds?

When you see someone write things and accuse people of not being Black enough, stop. Think. Who is this person? What type of job do they have? Where do they live? When is the last time they experienced poverty? When is the last time they themselves experienced the Blackness they want our youth to experience to exalt their Blackness to the world?

It is easy to sit up in your office, with a fancy title and six-figure salary and look down and tell those of us who remain in the community, to be Blacker. When was the last time you were Blacker with your six-figure salary?

What makes you different than the White men and women you disparage for having money? Because you look different spending it?

You didn’t get that fancy job and title and remain in the Black community; you’re out there in the nice neighborhood with low crime. But want to dictate to those of us who remain in the heart of the Black community how to be Black, in the same neighborhoods you fled.

I want the same things everyone else wants. I want to raise my children in the same community I grew up in, and anything less than that is unacceptable to me. And it should be to you, as well.

I don’t care if you’re Black or White. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican. Do you want to take our community back? That is all that I care about. If we have that in common, you don’t have to worry about my Blackness any day of the week.

But you may have to worry about people who leverage their Blackness against other Black people for self preservation in politics. Someone who cares more about self preservation than the community is no leader we need or want, no matter what color their skin is.

Clarissa Nickerson Fourman is a Garden Hills resident, former Champaign city councilwoman and occasional guest on WDWS’ “A Penny for Your Thoughts.”

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