Being an afrogoth… the conundrum
An afrogoth or goth of colour is not a walking curio. Minorities are often given a more narrow margin of lifestyle choice by society, so if you see a black swan picking up a Miranda Sex Garden CD, cast no sideways glances – to be a goth is not necessarily to look like Wednesday Addams.
I exist. It’s a very short and simple statement, a subject (me) and a verb (existence). But it’s a powerful one. Now this is where it gets a bit more interesting, I am a black goth, and we do exist. Like black swans, black bunnies, it’s amazing that people really do freak out when they see a black person as either a goth or a punk or anything that deviates from how they perceived black people. Sometimes, being an afrogoth, one must field inane questions that people should know better not to ask. Such as questions like “What kind of music do you listen to?” or “what does a black goth look like?” as if being black and being goth were two things that are so impossible to coexist. Eye roll. But the truth of the matter is, that black goths do exist. While we are a relatively smaller group than our cohorts in punk, black goths have been a part of the goth scene and with the advent of the internet there is no stopping us now!
What drew me to the goth lifestyle/aesthetic/what have you, was pretty much the same as for many others that find themselves one day deciding that Wednesday Adams is one of the coolest TV children around. As long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the “dark” elements of life, and the morose. I have a dark sense of humour like many other goths. In middle school, I was an outcast. The funny thing is I used to be quite popular but popularity requires too much work and self-sacrifice in the conventions of the normal collective good. I struggled to be a “normal” black girl, but the shoe never fit quite right. I wager it doesn’t fit right for many others either. I always managed to mess it up somehow. I’m positive many fellow black swans have felt similar pangs in their heart when relatives or friends just wish that they could be a certain way.
But to be true to one’s self is the hardest path someone can take. For the most part, that’s what being goth is largely about, being true to one’s self. Some may say that goth is as relatively simple as wearing a lot of black and being a jackass, and while that can be true for some people it’s not true for all. Whereas punks were angry for the world that they lived in and battling nihilism with fury, goths were more sardonically laughing at life’s bittersweet joke. This muted laughter in the face of some really ugly things about life and the world we live in made me believe I had found a place of comfort.
It surprises me that such a small fraction of blacks choose to go into subcultures just for a reprieve from being told how to live. Yet no one is allowed to speak for everyone. Individualism is the key to what it means for me to be a goth, and a sense of rebellion. But, although rebelling in itself is never easy, rebellion without meaning or purpose is a sleepy hollow.
The media tells us all the time what we should look like, how we should behave. For minorities it’s no different, in fact, the margin of acceptable behaviour is even more narrow. And yet despite the ‘open arms’ sensibility that should be found in the goth community, sometimes I found it more isolating than living with the “mundanes.” For example, some goths (either ignorant or willingly elitist) have given me the sideways glance when I pick up a Miranda Sex Garden or Nitzer Ebb CD. These are not isolated incidents either, and it should be addressed that the goth scene is not without its imperfections; people are still people after all. Sometimes there was an air of other goths giving me these sideways glances as if little ole’ me was threatening their very conception of what it means to be goth.
To be goth to many, still means to be white and to be paler than alabaster, and small. With so many ‘isms’ out in the world it’s a bit of a tragedy that it plays out in a community that prides itself on being almost free of those ills. But no subculture is perfect. So if you’re a goth who has not been exposed to goths that do not look like you, for the love of Robert Smith do not treat them as a walking museum piece or curio.
Despite these petty annoyances, I still find goth to be a homey home at the end of the world, and that there is relative ease for me in both blackness and darkness.