Last year, while working on my book Sensuous Knowledge: A Black Feminist Approach for Everyone, I reflected on when I started to identify as Black. The book explores concepts such as art, beauty, liberation and indeed Blackness with an approach that I call Sensuous Knowledge, a perspective that synthesises emotional intelligence and rational thinking by interweaving storytelling, academic study and social criticism. One of the book’s key themes was Blackness.
I knew that I didn’t start identifying as Black growing up in Nigeria because although Nigerians generally had an awareness of and felt an affinity with the term Black on a global and historical scale, it was not how we identified in a national context.
This lack of association with the word black, I argue, may seem understandable. If Blackness is a political identity to African descendants in the diaspora, on the African continent there is a hesitation to engage fully with the concept precisely therefore. We have more than enough to grapple with—ethnic rivalry, religious division, sycophantic leadership, arch-patriarchy, and imperial exploitation, to name a few. Maybe blackness, packed with its political baggage, is one thing we can forget about? Further, to identify as Black within Nigeria—the world’s largest Black nation—appears inessential.