Let me tell you a story. I was 15 years old. I was a quiet dude and I was dorky. I wasn’t hood and I wasn’t in your face. That wasn’t me. I liked golf. I liked little toy models and I liked graffiti. There was this Armenian kid who used to love wearing Southpole jeans, which was cool back then and I’ll never forget what he told me. This white kid says, ‘Man, I’m blacker than you.’ I just sat there quiet. I didn’t know what to say to that at the time. I’m thinking, ‘What does that mean? What did he mean by that? I’m blacker than you?’
That North American pop culture contemporary perception of blackness is influential and present everywhere in the world. We’re seen through that lens and we’re supposed to fit into that mold… that box. Neither being mixed, nor my deep appreciation and love for soul and funk music mattered at that moment because I wasn’t that box. I didn’t sag my pants. I didn’t cuss out my teachers. I didn’t act tough. I wasn’t the stereotypical Black male. I didn’t fit that construct.
To him, blackness was a way of dressing. It’s a way of speaking. It’s the music you listen to. I’ve always tried to understand that mentality. You can be in hip hop culture and identify yourself with hip hop. But that’s not the same as someone who thinks they’re Black.
‘I’m blacker than you.’
Xavier Estrella Schmidt
Muralist and Graffiti Artist