Smooth, angry, cool, powerful: how we talk about blackness


This post is by Jeffrey Boakye from Books | The Guardian


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Teacher and writer Jeffrey Boakye has encountered endless labels – all of which have informed his experience of being black and British today. Here, he unpicks their meanings

I’ve been black since about 1988, when I was colouring in pictures of priests at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic primary school in Brixton Hill, south London. I remember it well. We were sharing tables and colouring pencils and I looked up to find that there were no more “skin colour” pencils available in the pencil pot. By “skin colour”, I mean a shade of pinkish beige that was a pretty spot-on facsimile of what we can call “white”, European skin. Caucasian colour. With a hint of tan. Tea with an overgenerous splash of milk, if you want to talk beverages. Anyway, a girl whose name I’ve long since forgotten started asking around for a skin-colour pencil, keen to get her priest finished ...