Black Enough

“For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person. It’s a dirty, dark secret in the black community.”

-Charles Barkley

Last week Charles Barkley dropped this little tirade on the black community. He responded to a rumor that supposedly Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, was considered not black enough by his fellow teammates and that had led to a rift between him and his teammates. Though that rumor was later confirmed to be false by Russell Wilson, I believe Charles Barkley is right on the money with his comments. I’ve been through what he’s talking about.

You speak properly. You do your homework. You don’t make any trouble. And then you get slammed with

“You want to be like them!”

“Think you’re better than the rest of us.”

“You’re not black.”

It got to a point where I would shrug my shoulders in response. I didn’t get what these black people wanted from me. What did I need to prove to them to be really black? What was being “black enough”? I just accepted it. Guess I’m not black then. Guess I’m an Oreo whatever that is.

It took me a long time to realize that those black people didn’t own the black identity nor did they have the right to decide who was black and who wasn’t. They didn’t get to tell me what I am. I defined me.

Barkley’s comments reminded me of Rob Parker’s inquisition into RGIII’s blackness from a few years ago.

For those of you who don’t know Rob Parker, he was a sports analyst on ESPN. One day he went after the quarterback on the Washington Redskins, questioning his blackness. You can see his very ignorant comments in the video below.

Is this only a black thing? Do white people deal with other whites saying they aren’t white enough? Or Latinos? Asians?

Who are these blackness investigators? Where do they come from? Who appointed them to check out and measure blackness? Is there a committee I don’t know about that deals with this? Where do they get their criteria for blackness from?

These investigators always seem to go after any black person having success. Like achieving in life is a sign that you’re likely to stop being black. They never evaluate the blackness of criminals and thugs.

I never heard anything like,

“You just got out of jail for the same shit you went in for? I’m not sure you’re really black then.”

or

“You failed class because you skipped? That’s not very black of you.”

A black man who’s a criminal is accepted. He’s fine. The black community accepts you.

A black man with a white fiance busting his ass everyday trying to live his dream? They’re going to start looking into your blackness. You might not be black enough. You might just be an “Uncle Tom” or “Oreo”. Maybe you’ll be deemed an “honorary white”.

Interesting double standard.

Why do some black people need to make another person’s racial integrity their business? It’s not helping anyone. They’re creating a bigger problem. Smart black children could be dissuaded from higher education because of this sentiment. I’ve overheard children teasing one another about doing homework and studying. Is that what we want?

Why is there this belief that if you don’t fit a certain mold, you’re not black? Is it because certain blacks equate success with selling out their race? Do they think that to be black means you have to suffer? You have to be poor? You have to be married to a black woman?

In the video, Rob Parker gives a vague definition of what being black is. Not having a white fiance, not voting Republican, being down with the “cause” and having dreads.

If some black dude wants to vote republican, then he should be able to without being bothered. If some black guy doesn’t want to have dreads, he shouldn’t have to worry about losing black points. If some black woman wants to marry a white man, there should be no problem. The thing that these blackness investigators forget to realize is that the black experience can’t be ripped away from someone.

You can question their racial integrity but you can’t change how that person feels when they’re pulled over by the police. You can’t take away the eyes staring at their every move when they walk into a 7/11 at night. You can’t make them feel any more comfortable when someone says “you’re better than those other blacks”. You can’t kick them out of the race just because they live their life different than yours.

You can’t.

They’ll always be black and you can’t do anything about it.

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The Black Identity.

Is it a desirable thing to be “black”? Should it be? Should people be proud of their skin tone?

Then again, being black is a lot more than just a skin tone. People care a lot more about a particular complexion more than they care about the color of your shirt. There’s people with dark skin who aren’t considered black. As it stand now, It’s a form of identifying yourself. It’s a subculture.  It’s not an identity you can get rid of. (unless you happen to have light skin and never tell anyone about your ethnicity). For the most part, You can’t wake up and say, I don’t want to be black anymore. It’s not like your clothes which you can change. It’s a permanent status even beyond the grave when your skin is long gone. You’ll still be black then.

What does “black” actually mean?

It used to mean that you were three-fifths of  a human and happy to be enslaved. It was to your benefit.

It also used to mean that you were a violent,white woman raping, subhuman or if you were a woman you were a promiscuous sex desiring subhuman whore.

That’s not the meaning given to blacks these days.  It’s hard to describe it. Before just being black meant you couldn’t have a lot of things. Today you can have most things. America has tried to make being not as much as inconvenience as it used to be in the past. Now blacks can intermingle with all the races.

You would think after integration, skin tone wouldn’t matter. Isn’t that what we’re aiming for? We don’t want people to be discriminated against because they look a certain way.

But that’s not the case. Blacks still very much have a black identity.

Now close your eyes for a minute. (After reading the next sentence.)

I want you to picture in your head, the average American.

Now I want you to do the same and imagine the average black person.

Compare and contrast this.

There’s a certain way that people think black people act despite our integration. In high school, whenever I would eat chicken, somebody always made a “funny” joke.

I think those kind of jokes are fine. I’m not offended by them , but they made me notice something. I had a friend who would eat chicken everyday and nobody every made jokes about him. The difference between us? Skin tone. If I wasn’t black, I would have been treated differently. They saw me as a black man first and a person second.

I’m not saying that they thought I was inferior or that they hated black people. They didn’t. However I was treated differently. I’d have friends who’d make the comment that I wasn’t like other black people. Or that I acted “white”.

They had an idea of what black people were.  Black people acted a certain way. They dressed a certain way and they did certain things. If you step out of line of these assumptions, then you’re different.

I was told by some people in high school that I was their only black friend. I could never tell how to take this statement. Is that a good thing? Should they get more black friends?

Another example.

When I walk around my college campus, random black people I have never met, say hello to me if I make eye contact. Why do they do this? I would never have done the same to a stranger. Students of other skin tones don’t do the same.

Here’s another.

I frequent a wrestling discussion board. One of the prominent posters put up a picture of himself. Some of the posters were shocked that he was black. Why were they shocked? Why did they think that he wasn’t black beforehand?

This idea of being black has always bothered me. My mother tells me that I need to get more black friends. She tells me that it would be a good thing for me. Am I missing out on something by not completely embracing my black identity? I’ve never taken much pride in it. It’s just there.  I’d include it on a top ten list of things I can identify myself by, but that’s only because it’s hard to come up with ten things.

If I had to join a club and the options were black or wrestling fan, I’d pick wrestling fan over black.

Am I missing out on some great thing?