COLUMN: All Skinfolk ain't Kinfolk

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By Noah Pearson, Columnist

This is an open letter to the Black Community of Elmhurst. It’s a simple message we have all heard before, but many of us have trouble keeping up. “All Skinfolk ain’t Kinfolk” is just our way of saying that just because you might be black doesn’t mean you represent the community in positive light.

All over this campus there exists an apathy among many members of the black community that refuse to name our oppressor, and even get angry when someone does try to disrupt their convenient narrative.

For example, the population of black students in the EC Black Student Union is diminishing. I have been asked, by black students, that for their sake I should tone down my pride in my blackness.

When I or my black siblings on this campus create programming to celebrate ourselves or to feel happy about our own skin, we are told we are being divisive.

Because of their insecurity, we are asked to suffer.

While EC might be a relatively safe environment for members of many different communities, there are too many black folk who have stories of overt discrimination from their white peers, and too many black folk who accuse them of being too self righteous or even “too black.”

It is time for those of us who are proud of who we are to stop protecting the feelings of skinfolk who attack us for it.

Building community should be first priority at a predominately white institution, but that becomes difficult when parts of a communities members refuse to allow this to happen. Even if skinfolk don’t want to be kinfolk, it is unfair for them to make it anymore difficult on us.  

Why should so many devoted black students and faculty members put effort into protecting our “kinfolk” when some of our “kinfolk” are too embarrassed to even admit that they are skinfolk?

While it may seem counterintuitive to cut off members of our community while trying to build it, constant rejection from our skinfolk becomes too tiring.

We have so much to offer and we can’t do it alone, however at some point our energy is taken away from our true community, and given to ungrateful skinfolk who want nothing to do with it.

Of course, educating our peers and leading them on the road to self actualization is essential, but at some point, denial of one’s own blackness becomes too much of an obstacle and too much labor for one self loving black individual.

The constant accusations of our self expression being divisive are growing too high in numbers and are becoming less and less excusable.

Black culture is a vibrant, diverse, and sometimes loud subculture in America. When black students try to explore this they should not be shamed.

We cannot always be palatable to every nonblack student and frankly most of them will never understand. However, in being proud, in being unapologetic, in being “too black” is when we create kinfolk from skinfolk and from that, we create community.

It is unfortunate that for whatever reason some skinfolk deny themselves their birthright, their history, their connection to what is the arguably the most diverse collection of cultures within a single racial group, but no longer should the expectation be that the rest of the black community carry their burden.

This is a challenge to every member of the Black Community at EC to be critical of their own interactions with the community, as well as the interactions of the people they surround themselves with. Are you proud of who you are? Are you ashamed? In moments of pride are you told to tone it down by other skinfolk? Can you love yourself without fear of judgement from your skinfolk? Are you quick to judge your skinfolk for loving themselves?

This is a new year. We are fortunate enough to reign back in the school year with Black History Month, a legislated time of year dedicated to connecting to our roots and supporting each other.
Take this month to respect yourself. Surround yourself with skinfolk that undoubtedly and proudly is kinfolk. Settling for less at this point is only hurting you. Happy Black History Month.