Embracing the Black British Experience

The first time I saw a black woman with braids on BBC news I screamed; not out of horror, but out of shock, for the first time ever I saw a journalist who looked just like me on British television. For the first time ever, I felt represented as a Black Brit. Growing up, I was obsessed with African-American TV shows, from Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Everybody Hates Chris, you name it, I watched it. At first glance my obsession seemed very normal, the storylines were funny, the actors were great, and I was being entertained. However, with some hindsight I realise my love for these shows was evidence of something deeper. I saw the nuance of the black experience represented in a way that I didn’t on British television, so I latched on to the shows as a representation of myself. Whether it was the overdramatic mum in Everybody Hates Chris, or the innocence of Ashely Banks in Fresh Prince, these shows made me feel acknowledged and understood.

Overtime, my obsession with these shows developed into a desire to be African-American. The culture appeared so rich; full of music, dancing and of deep appreciation for history. To be African-American, to me, was to have reached the epitome of blackness. However, as I entered my late teens with the rise of social media, and a smack of reality, I came to realise that the African-American experiences wasn’t all stomping in the yard and listening to Beyoncé. Racism was real, discrimination was rife and life as a black person in America was not as flowery as I thought. To be African American, was no longer to have reached the epitome of blackness rather it was to be the recipient of some of the life’s worst evils as well as beauties.

With my newfound revelation, it was time to dig deep and unearth reasons why I didn’t embrace my Black British identity. Why, as a second-generation immigrant of Nigerian heritage, did I not want to claim the Black British identity? When, I saw the black woman with braids on BBC News I found my answer. As a Black British young woman, I hardly ever saw myself represented, the nuance of the black British experience was often side-lined or grossly simplified. I had no desire to embrace a nation that did not seem to embrace me. Therefore, when asked ‘what is something I’m obsessed with and why?’, it is the representation of the Black British experience in British media. As descendants of immigrants, us Black Brits have a lifetime of juggling multiple identities, an act that is equally as tiresome, as it is beautiful. This beauty should be represented in the British media so that the next time a black woman with braids is on BBC news there will be no scream or ounce of shock, rather a knowing that us Black Brits, like African Americans, deserve to be represented.

Itunu Abolarinwa

@Itunu_speaks

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Next edition: Monday 9th July 2018!

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