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Thursday, April 21, 2016

ON WHO IS AND WHO IS NOT ALLOWED TO CLAIM BLACKNESS


The other thing that's "not okay" in 2016 are the black people who are getting more and more vocal about declaring mixed-race people as "not black."

I'm not saying I believe in supporting the one-drop rule, but it ought to be obvious by now that race is not biology but a choice of identity.  One person doesn't get to tell another person what their racial identity is. Most black people are mixed race because most of us have white rapists in our families due to slavery but being black is not about having one drop of black blood.  Being black is about a culture, a shared history, shared experiences, a variety of styles, etc.

Art by Minjae Lee
http://www.grenomj.com/

Recently mixed people (one white parent and one black/POC parent for example) may not have similar oral histories in their homes. They may not be experiencing the wide ranging possibilities that is black culture in their homes. And since recently mixed people are the only ones that know what's going on inside their house, inside their hearts, and inside their heads, they get to choose their own racial identity and tell the rest of the world what that is-- just like everybody else.

Sometimes the recently mixed choose the identity of "Biracial" And that's okay. But this means that there might be one or two places where  the "Mixed Raced People Are Not Black" chanters may have a point.

Being biracial is a fact of your birth and not necessarily the same as your racial identity, unless you choose to call yourself "Bi-racial." Again, racial identity is always a choice.


However, if a biracial person chooses to identify as "biracial," because that is in line with their apparent biology of their parents, that's fine. But when the call goes out for "Black Americans" to come hither, don't answer.

Halle Berry can come when the call goes out of black actresses because she's taken her stand as a Black American. President Obama can come too when the call goes out for black people to be on an Ebony Cover, because he's taken his stand too.  But Tiger Woods cannot. Mariah Carey, who did her level best to be non-committal about her racial identity for decades, can't either in my opinion.


I don't care how dark or light you are. I don't care what race each of your parents is. 
It's not your biology that concerns me. Biology of race is a weak concept at best, if it exists at all. It's your choice of racial identity that concerns me.

And your choice concerns me because that's connected to your attitude and understanding of what it is to be black like me, like us.  We are not monolithic be we are connected. We get to say who that those who do not identify as "us" don't get to be treated 100% like "us."

If you don't understand what it is to be black, if you choose not to become part of  "us" or "we" because you've chosen to be bi-racial, then be in the group called "bi-racial."

There are plenty of mostly black movies and people of color movies where bi-racial people can be and should be welcomed---as "biracial." But things like that Ebony Cover? That's for black people that identify as black.

Harry Belafonte, Jesse Williams, and even Janey-Come-Lately, Ever-Lip-Curling Zendaya deserves to be on the cover of a historically black magazine cover --- just not all at once AS IF they are representative of all black people.

But somebody like Zoe Saldana does not deserve a place on our historically black magazine covers.

My opinion is not set in stone, but I strongly feel that Zoe Saldana's choice to identify as bi-racial or something other than Black, Black American, or African American is Zoe telling us a truth about herself. I'm thinking this whole Nina Simone movie scandal is Saldana communicating to us that


1) She has not experienced much black culture in her home.


2) She has not had black oral history passed down to her in her home.  


3) She has not had the news, movies, and television interpreted for her through the lens of black culture, black history, and black experience by a black adult

This almost has to be why Saldana thinks it's okay for a white actor to play a Native American, a white women to play Cleopatra, and a Laurence Olivier to play Othello in black face -- unlike 99.5% of the black people I've ever met. 


Zoe Saldana has been, in essence, telling us that she is not black AND that the the sociologists are correct, that race is a social construct, and that she is not constructed in such a way that she should play Nina Simone EVEN IF she had come out of the uterine oven darker with West African facial features.   


Black people should be upset if somebody who does not identify as black shows up on the cover of Ebony, Essence, Jet etc unless the main story being done involves all people of color or the main story is about another ethnic group with issues parallel to our own, one of those other ethnic(?) groups being the "bi-racial" ethnic group.