uppity negroUse: proper noun a fearless black person who by social definition is “not in their place”
In the vicious history of racial segregation in this country, with its roots in the slaveocracy that contributed heavily to the building of the United States, in a post-Civil War society as blacks determined to legally fight for their freedom and began to take more and more liberties with exercising de facto forms of civil disobedience against Jim Crow laws in the South and discriminatory practices in the north, the phrase “uppity Negro” emerged. (Undoubtedly, its linguistic cousin “nigger,” I’m sure was often transposed for the more classy option of “Negro.”) Simply stated, an uppity Negro was one who dared to blatantly challenge the racist societal norms.
While the archetypes of black history include the likes of Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass all the way to Mary McLeod Bethune and Martin Luther King, Jr., for me, the uppity Negroes who made even more of a difference were the unnamed people in small towns and large cities that took a stand. The hundreds of black men lynched from trees for not “knowing their place” and the hundreds of black women beaten and raped at the will of white men for simply being black and being a woman–those are the true uppity Negroes.
An uppity Negro was one who didn’t mind using their status to take a stand. To make the contemporary connection, in the vein of DuBois’ “talented tenth” concept and borrowing from it a bit, an uppity Negro uses their privilege and status to make a change–it is here where I identify as such.
The conversation of race and what that looks like in the United States has seen three dominating narratives since World War II. Initially there was overarching fight for the laws to be changed to fulfill the basic citizenship, secondly the conversation shifted toward racial reconciliation and mostly conversations about race existed between the black and white racial dynamic. In a post-9/11 world with Hispanics being the number one minority in this country, the conversation has shifted from racial reconciliation toward embracing diversity–all of which was accelerated with the presidency of Barack Obama.
As far as the black and white relations in this country, Obama’s presidency raised the racial specter of uppityness. Even a U.S. Representative from a rural Georgia district had no issues going on record calling Obama “uppity.”
My intent is to use my gifts, graces and whatever other smattering of talents that I have been blessed with to be able to make uncomfortable those things that need to be unsettled, provide a salve to those things that need to be saved and to unashamedly embrace my blackness as defined by me.