By Arielle Iniko Newton
I wasn’t the cool kid.
I was bullied during my adolescent years for reasons that seem mundane and trivial in my adult life. My lack of social acumen paired with my sexual proclivities meant that I received torment from the “popular” kids.
The “popular” Black kids.
My imperfect journey into sex positivity began in high school. I was a freshman when I began to explore what sexual freedom and enjoyment meant for me, but my pubescent sexual Liberation was smeared with my rigid desire to be accepted by the folks who were undoubtedly nestled within the upper echelons of the high school hierarchy.
As a dark skinned, acne-prone, big-lipped, 4C-haired Black girl, acceptance was not a concept with which I was accustomed.
My insecurities made me shy or flamboyant, depending on what setting I was in and who I wished to impress. Around the popular Black kids, I was quiet and hoped that I would not be on the receiving end of an imminent roast session. Around the “less popular” Black and non-Black kids, I was boisterous and witty, effortlessly weaving together my obsession with Harry Potter and presidential history into an extensive and illuminating conversation on the A train.
Regardless of who I was with, I wanted desperately to be celebrated and loved. I yearned for all of those social benefits that had been denied to me due to my appearance and apparent lack of social grace. This need to be celebrated and recognized merged with my feverish sexual desires resulted in a mid-aughts dilemma that left me fucking boys (now men) who did not deserve my body, energy, or sexual talents.
By senior year, I was better situated within the high school hierarchy. I disposed of the need to impress others and unapologetically embraced my hobbies. We were older now, and we were all getting our dicks sucked and pussies ate. We were preparing for college, shifting in our friendships, overcoming pubescent angst, and emboldening our sexual liberties.
But throughout this time, I had grown to hate my Black tormentors, and by extension the Black community at large. I made false assumptions that Black youth were inherently less tolerant of any Black person who didn’t fit neatly into a universal Black standard. Soon came my arrogance; the asshole bullies were just lazy idiots who cut class and smoked weed, while I was studious and too mature for my age. I was better and smarter than them and one day they’d regret bullying me.
To cope with my abuse, I became anti-Black.
Thankfully, I’ve unlearned this form of anti-Blackness while committing my Self to Black Liberation. As I’ve gotten older and have explored the enormity of Blackness and its layered variations, I’ve unlearned the myth that there is a monolithic Black standard that I must fit.
Black folk are not uniquely more intolerant or violent than other racial groups. Surviving in a racially segregated society means that we are more likely to experience violence from people who look like us.
And there’s the overarching reality that youngins can be cruel towards people they perceive to be abnormal or vulnerable. It is here we can levy a vigorous discussion about ableism within our communities, and hold accountable our young ones who commit violent acts of cruelty against those among us who have mental and physical disabilities.
For those who weaponize anti-Blackness for their own sense of Blerdy self-righteousness, I wonder to what extent such anti-Blackness is actually a manifestation of wanting white validation. Because I certainly remember fighting to be accepted and verified by white folk, and feeling a sense of pride and relief when even the ugliest of them found me attractive.
The scars of high school still embroider my current Self. But my love for myself and my People is the bedrock of my perseverance. I used anti-Blackness to mask my insecurities, jealousy, vengefulness, and arrogance when I was at my weakest. I am now my best Self since I have shed the easily available weapons white supremacy gave me to further fissure my People.
So, for my fellow Blerds who still carry trauma from our adolescent years and have since attempted to cope by promoting fictional stereotypes and prejudices about Black people, I say this: your pain is valid, but your anti-Blackness is not.
Arielle Newton aka Iniko is an organizer within the Movement for Black Lives, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of BlackMillennials.com. As Head Girl of Ravenclaw, she is an unapologetic mermaid, abolitionist, and radical militant freedom fighter.