24.4.14

Pre-blackness, Blackness & Post-Blackness / 195,000 b.c. to Today



The first recognizably black humans began appearing in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Some 50,000 years later, they began to engage in the more refined human behaviors including sophisticated tool and jewelry making, painting, sculpture, and the control of fire. About 5,000 years ago, Menes became the the planet's first king of a nation-state that maintained its dominance and prominence until 30 B.C. For the next 500 years or so, various kingdoms and states appeared throughout the African continent. We might consider this time span as playing host to "pre-blackness"--not because early man or the ancient Egyptians did not posess dark skin but because their complexions had not yet been thoroughly politicized.

"Blackness" as we have come to understand it today is a creation of 18th century Europe and the Enlightenment. It is a label that is currently inspiring so much ambivalence among people of African descent. During its tenure, blackness has become associated with slavery, illiteracy, dancing, physical strength, Jesus, good fucking, good cooking, violence, anger, laziness, courtesy, melodrama, comedy, music, ignorance, and wisdom all of which are practiced with the unique urgency of a people at the bottom of an opulent society.

During the last fin de si├Ęcle, occurring during the transition to the 21st century, a vogue began to spring up around the label, "post-blackness". Post-blackness is the attempt by some to infuse blackness with characteristics not commonly thought to be held by average black people. It's thesis holds that traditional blackness is too narrow or essentialist to describe new advances, views, and changes among black people. Yet, along with any progression, the underlying theme of blackness (i.e., how Africans and people of African descent deal with racism) has not disappeared. Far from being "after" or "later than" blackness, post-blackness is a misnomer for the effort to bring nuance to the current understanding of black, itself a very "black" thing to do (i.e., destroy stereotypes). We could venture to describe this process as the creation of a polyblackness, a hyperblackness, or simply a more detailed blackness. The distance and resolution implied by post-blackness is simply not consistent with reality today.

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