SELA IS BLACK IN AMERICA
The 14th of 28 interviews with a variety of artists, writers and friends to learn more about individual perspectives on being black + original illustrations by George McCalman
SELA STEIGER (civic + social organizer)
I feel like a Black woman and relate strongly to the spiritual power inherent in this!
Tell us about the first time you understood what it was to be black
This took me quite a while, actually. Obviously, I knew that I was Black — racially speaking — from a very young age. Developing what it meant to me personally — its significance for my identity, politics, and vision of the world — happened in college, as an African American Studies major. That’s where I learned about and fully grasped the scope of the transatlantic slave trade and discovered how the effects of this system touched every portion of the globe. I realized how vast the “Afro-” experience was (whether it be Caribbean, American, European, etc.) and how critical a part of all modern culture it is.
What’s on your mind when you’re not thinking about race?
I wouldn’t say I’m always thinking about race, but I am always living in a Black body, so I suppose there’s a subconscious realm where race is constantly on my mind. Or perhaps race is like the gut: an organ with it’s own independent nervous system that communicates to other areas of my body, advocating for it’s health without my conscious effort. In any case, when I’m not actively thinking about race — the intellectual construct and its ramifications — I’m thinking about my family, work, news, social media, laundry, ice cream, my garden.
Do people see you as black before they see you?
I think so, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I suppose this means that they subject me to their implicit biases about Black women, but I think there is also an element of mystery and intrigue in it. It delights me to surprise people by taking up space in places they didn’t expect me to appear.
What identity — racial or otherwise — do you feel closest to?
Female. I feel like a Black woman and relate strongly to the spiritual power inherent in this!
Black: lowercase or uppercase b?
Uppercase because it’s an essential part of my identity, and speaks to a unique experience.
Okay, now tell us what you think about Beyonce
She gets it.