Friday, February 09, 2007

The Coveted Color of BLACK

Harold Ford, Jr above IS BLACK (enough),
but Barack Obama below is NOT BLACK (enough)

And Oprah "USED to be Black..."


What does it mean when someone who is "Black" is considered NOT Black by other Blacks?

I just saw the interview with DEBRA DICKERSON, author of THE END OF BLACKNESS, on Colbert Report who claims that for a Black person to have a right to claim he or she is "Black," he or she must be descendants of slaves and regularly suffer discrimination. Ironically, I would think this BROADENS the range of people who could then be called "Black," countering her efforts.

This question of "Blackness" seems to be raised by the wake of Barack Obama's potential Presidential candidacy, who is Black, but... apparently NOT "Black enough." According to several political commentaries and "officially" Black authors, bloggers, and writers and speakers, if a Black person does not suffer victimization on a constant basis and is not a direct descendant of slaves, then he or she is just... NOT Black. It's even said that Oprah Winfrey is not Black "anymore," which is meant as a condemning comment against her philanthropic wealth and her broad appeal, which happens to include a vast array of White women. So, this means you can actually LOSE your Blackness? It is also claimed that "Blackness" is a commodity that needs to be harnessed by the "appropriate" "Black" people so that it can be used more powerfully in politics and not as just another word for "Negro."

Needless to say, I'm very confused.

I wonder why such an emphasis on this differentiation? I've even read it put as "they are not one of us!" To me, this is getting unhealthy, but maybe I am just not understanding. There are multitude versions of "Whites," but no one nationality or group lays claim to it as a political power or eager banner of pride, and when they DO, they are considered extremists and they are really scary people ("White Power" bullshit).

So is all of this a matter of "Black Extremists," or are they on to something legitimate here that we should begin to consider more seriously and carefully?

2 comments:

Eric said...

Any black friends I've ever engaged in this conversation have generally invoked "the paper bag test." If you can "pass white" by being about the color of a brown paper bag, you might not be "black" enough.
I do not understand the ramifications of all that but I guess I really never could, being a whitey white boy and all.

CocteauBoy said...

From what I understand, this "Not Black Enough" debate isn't even about skin color, it's about ethnicity. I think it's kind of the way the word "Jewish" has come to be considered, where, yes, someone can convert to Judaism, but he is not "really Jewish." I think this is about removing the connection between Black and Race, so that Black is specific to one very defined ethnicity in the way that "Jewish" is fairly commonly used, because you can "be Jewish" without even BEING Jewish (religiously). I think it's starting to make a bit of sense to me, even though I think the whole thing is absurd. I think anytime something creates an "us and them" mentality, nothing good can come of that.