In the post-civil rights era of the last half-century, a number of black triumphalist slogans and movements have come and gone.
“Black is beautiful” was an informal self-help attitude that sought to encourage blacks not to emulate so-called arbitrary constructs of white majority aesthetics, but instead to rediscover a natural black essence — from Afros to Ebonics and Kwanzaa — that need not be discouraged.
“Black power!” was a more assertive, political, and collective strain of “black pride.” It unfortunately descended from legitimate efforts to organize blacks collectively into an effective political force (e.g., the resulting “black caucus” in Congress) and finally into the violence and incoherence of the Black Panthers and other nihilistic violent groups, whose chauvinism was fueled by their own versions of abject racism. It too is now forgotten.
In the 1990s came a more informal angst characterized by the slogan “It’s a black thing. You wouldn’t understand.” This fad sought, in in-your-face style, to remind non-black America, but especially its white majority, that there was an exceptionalism in African-American popular culture that could never really be emulated or adopted in any genuine manner by non-African American wannabes — much less co-opted by naïve do-gooders or conniving profiteers. It was a separatist idea that assumed society’s reciprocal standard did not apply to itself.