34 Women Explain The Complexity Of “Blackness”


and what it means to them

Issa Rae once said, "The very definition of 'blackness' is as broad as that of 'whiteness,' yet we're seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition." For me, "blackness" is a term that I continue to wrestle with. The Oxford Dictionary offers three standard definitions for the term: 1. The property or quality of being black in color. (Complete darkness; the absence of any light.) 2. The fact or state of belonging to any human group having dark-colored skin. (The quality or character associated with black people.) 3. A state characterized by despair or depression. (A state or condition of being evil or wicked.) Blackness, for the most part, is associated with negative connotations.

Many of us were taught about the concept of "otherness" in school. If the opposite of good is bad and the opposite of white is black, then the message is that white is good, therefore black is bad. In his 1903 novel The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote: "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity." To be black is to be hyperaware of everything and everyone around you. 

If I had to select one thing that I would like people to take away from Black Girl Power... The Future Is Bright, it would be an understanding that there is no such thing as a singular black experience. We all have our own stories to show and tell, and each and every one of us deserves to have our voices heard. So instead of relying on a dictionary, I asked 34 black women what the term "blackness" means to them. Read all of their personal responses in the gallery, above! (And stay tuned for more spotlights through the rest of the month!)

trust anyone 
who says 
they do not see color. 
this means 
to them,
you are invisible.” 
― Nayyirah Waheed

Photographed by Gina Nero.

"If you are black, you're experiencing 'blackness.'"

- Quinta Brunson