Home > discrimination, media, race relations, television > Black is Black is Black…

Black is Black is Black…

A friend asked me today if I ever was called names growing up, since I, an “articulate” classical pianist, never quite met the “definition” of what a black person should be.

Yes, of course! I was called all manner of names–sellout, oreo, whitewash, etc. etc. It’s an interesting form of sub-racism, one which has come up more than ever, now that Mr. Obama is in the limelight and forcing us to confront our stereotypes.

I am so tired of the “Are you black enough?” issue, probed extensively in articles like this one following the “Black in America” CNN special.

The problem is that the question is being asked in the first place. Both whites and blacks who feel the need to ask if us non-traditional folk are “black enough” are victims of the greater stereotype. Blacks who define themselves by stereotypes are especially tragic, since, as Michael Dyson says, they are “subjugating themselves–” limiting their own possibilities based on a severely narrow and self-defeating definition. By even implying that there is a “definition” of blackness, you are acknowledging that definition and, therefore, empowering it.

I have dealt with racism literally all my life (I was first called the *n* word in preschool at age 3). I understand it and continue to deal with it on a daily basis. But the most painful racism is the kind that comes from the one group of people who should understand most.

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  1. August 10, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I don’t know what other people do in these type of situations, but what I do is remain true to myself, And let those thing that I’m interested me become part of my life , regardless of what other people say.

  2. gravion17
    August 12, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    WOW…it’s like you tore a page out of the book about my life! Ever since my family moved to the states from the West Indies, I have heard the comment ” You sure don’t act BLACK!” on a daily basis. When I was younger it really confused me to hear that from Blacks as well as Whites. When I asked my father about it, he told me that it was a good thing. He said that African-Americans were seen as a disgrace by other Blacks out side the U.S. and that I (along with my 3 siblings) were to have no personal interactions with African Americans because he did not want his children to become like them or to be perceived as an African-American! As I got older, I began to realize what my father meant.(as far as the perception of African-Americans from outside the U.S.) As I started traveling through the world, the general opinion of African-Americans was not what I call positive! Now a days when I am told that I don’t act Black….Honestly, I take it as a compliment.

  3. secretsociologist
    August 13, 2008 at 4:33 am

    A compliment?! I’m sorry, I’ll have to disagree. Being proud of who you are means embracing the whole of one’s own race–like it or not.

    Why on earth would you concur with others’ erroneous opinions of African Americans? To go around the world saying, “Yes, this race of people is awful?” Score one for the racists. They now have one of “us” on their side.

    I’m sorry you missed it, but the point of the article is to encourage unity between different types of black people, and that we shouldn’t divide ourselves based on what someone else says “black” is. Unfortunately, that is exactly what you have done. I hear some self hatred in your attitude and also in your father’s.

    Best of luck.

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