By Doshon Farad
You know, it really sickens me that, in the twenty-first century, black folks are still arguing about complexion and color. When are we going to get to the point where we realize that regardless of complexion, hair texture or eye color, we are the same African people? It is essential for us to recognize blackness in all of its many forms and expressions.
First, I wish to applaud Soledad O’Brien for taking on the awesome task of discussing the very complex subject of being “Black in America”. For the past several years she has delved into an area that many of our colleagues and other blacks are too frightened to even go near for fear of being the subject of ridicule or jeopardizing their status.
Soledad’s Black in America reports have attempted to carefully examine and explain virtually every aspect of the Black experience in this country. I think what I like most about these special reports is that O’Brien goes beyond “experts” and reaches out to the “average” brother and sister who’s just struggling to make it day by day to discuss this very sensitive topic.
Here’s my issue: Within the black community we have what my Your Black World colleague, Yvette Carnell, referred to in her recent article, “CNN’s Soledad O’Brien Isn’t Black Enough, But President Obama Is?” , as black “purists”. These are black folks who seem to have a problem with any black person who they view as not being “black” enough or too “mixed” looking as a result of white ancestry and more specifically white parentage. Please keep in mind that these “purists” come in all shades.
When Soledad recently announced that she would be doing another “Black in America” report she became the target of a twitter bashing campaign being launched by folks identifying themselves as African-American critics, who expressed their displeasure at a “non-black” looking woman hosting such a program. This particular installment asked the question, “Who is Black?” It focused on the issue of complexion being used as the primary factor in determining who is black. Among the vicious tweets were insults such as;
“What do you know about being black in America when you’re not even black yourself, you’re mixed?”
“What can you tell us about being black when you have a white father?”
“You’re black enough, you’re too mixed looking”.
These things were also being said off of the internet. It’s quite sad how black folks, after being discriminated against for so many centuries due to our complexions and features, will now do the same thing to each other. What I find most remarkable is that we’re quick to throw in someone’s face saying that they’re not “black enough” but white folks don’t seem to have a problem with identifying who is black regardless of how “mixed” they may appear or how many white ancestors they may have. Just ask President Obama.
It’s amazing how black folks forget that to this very day there exists in America the “one drop” law. This was a law that was established during slavery that said regardless of how “white” looking a person appeared, if they had a black ancestor that particular person was black and would be treated as such i.e. sold into slavery. Now we’re (black folks) saying the reverse; that if you have one drop of white blood, this means you’re NOT black. Wow. Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? So I guess this means that every person of African descent in the Western hemisphere is really white? Since all of us whose ancestors have been in this part of the World since slavery has white ancestors either through rape or miscegenation. J.A. Rogers speaks at length on this subject in his book S@x and Race: Vol. 1-3.
I can’t tell you how many times that I-a light complexioned black man- have been stopped by white police officers and before running my name they would always ask me for my height, weight, eye color, but never my race. They would automatically fill in “Lt. Complexion black male” or sometimes just “black male”. I always say that if you’re a black person who doesn’t know you are black, America will always remind you. As light as I am, I haven’t had too many experiences of white people not being able to easily identify me. If I’m walking down the street in an affluent white neighborhood and the residents were to get suspicious, they’re not going tell the 911 operator, “There’s a suspicious high yellow mixed looking man in the area”. Instead they’ll tell the operator, “Come get this n—– right away”. LOL!
I wonder if Soledad’s black critics were among those in 2008 who were saying that then Senator Obama wasn’t really black because he had a white mother. The issue of colorism and self-hatred still runs deep within the black community, across America. I guess this is what Dr. Cornel West means when he says that black people practice White supremacy without being in the presence of white people. We salute you for your trailblazing, Soledad. Keep on keeping on!!!