Tag Archives: african-american

When is Black “Black?”

by Guest Contributor Danielle Belton, originally published at The Black Snob

“She needs to quit.”

That’s how the discussion got kicked off on One Drop Rule’s message board July 2nd. The person accused of needing to cease and desist was CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien who spent the past year working on a documentary for the cable news network entitled “Black In America” which airs this week. And the quitting in question was in regards to her black status.

“I have watched her with (African Americans) before and never once did she refer to (African Americans) in the first person, as in ‘I’ or ‘We’, or ‘we as a people’, etc. Maybe that’s just a journalism thing. But Tim Russert did identify as a Catholic when the Pope died, so?” wrote one commenter.

“Also, I have read at least one article … that says, rather Soledad says, that while her mother raised her/siblings to be just (African Americans), she sees herself as being bi-racial or mixed race. Now, she could just be saying that because she’s doing this show. Maybe on St. Paddy’s day, she said she was Irish.”

This attitude was sprinkled throughout many of the comments. At one point a few seemed to get an interview O’Brien gave to MyUrbanReport confused where she talked about her own upbringing as “black” and the story of a mixed couple she interviewed for the documentary who differed on whether to raise the children as biracial or black.

    “Here you have a kid to me who is completely biracial,” O’Brien said in the interview. “They’re little children, but their dad doesn’t necessarily see that (they’re black.) … My mom and dad were like you’re black. That was just the way it was. The way they were very clear about it made me clear about it in my head.”

O’Brien has repeatedly in the past given accounts of her life as a black Latina. In a profile with the Irish Echo Online, she talks about her identity (her mother is Afro-Cuban and her father is Australian-Irish) and the struggles her parents went through as a mixed race couple back when it was still illegal in some places and some restaurants wouldn’t serve them.

    O’Brien tends to treat her own ethnic mix with a light touch. She said that people laugh when they see her without makeup “because I have so many freckles that I look very Irish.” She also gently mocked the notion that her mixed-race background exposed her to unimaginable horrors.

    “I have had people say, like, ‘Oh, so you were a tragic mulatto?’ Well, um, not exactly. I was just a middle-class girl growing up on Long Island.”

    It isn’t possible, she contended, “to over-dramatize” what (her parents) went through … “They were doing stuff that for the time was very risky – socially risky and risky to their own physical safety. And they decided they were going to go ahead and get married and have six kids,” their daughter recalled.

While the board eventually clears up the confusion over what O’Brien said versus what the couple she interviewed said, there seemed to be a prevailing hostility towards the reporter for her alleged flip-flopping on her “black status.”

I’ve heard this on more than one occasion, but haven’t seen much from O’Brien to back this belief up considering she routinely plays up her black heritage over her Irish roots. After awhile I started to wonder if this hostility was over the fact that she was white enough to pass, but still ensconced herself in black issues and news stories (she’s a member of the National Association of Black Journalists). Were their “lying eyes” keeping them from recognizing her as a woman of color? Especially with her straight hair and nondescript accent, standard for any TV journalist? Continue reading

Thoughts on CNN’s Black in America Series

by Latoya Peterson

I have been interested to watch how the Black in America project has been received around the blogosphere. It was an eighteen-month project that many think should have been thought about a bit more. A summary of the series is here.

Tariq Nelson provides an interesting perspective on why he isn’t annoyed:

Last night I watched the first part of the much anticipated ‘Black in America’ program on CNN.

The first thing that I really appreciated about this show is that it showed that in spite of the many problems in our community, there are black Americans that are hard working, have strong families, businesses and that there are black men that are working extremely hard to make sure that there children have a better life, even if they are struggling themselves.

I would have probably thought that this program was just a retread of what has been done so many times before, but I have been really irked lately by some “religious” people (black ones at that) that have been writing me, putting down blacks and demanding that I distance myself from my own background based on some misguided “religious principle”. Some of these self-righteous individuals have been trashing me in other places on the internet for my refusal to abide to their demands. In any case, from this, I know now more than ever that there is a strong need to tell the story of hard working black people that value their families because too many have bought into this myth that none of us care for our families.

Continue reading

What am I supposed to do?

by Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn, originally published at Digital Femme

Long ago, when I was much younger than I am today, my aunt purchased a VHS tape of cartoons for my cousins and I to watch. She quickly removed the plastic wrapper, slammed the cassette into the VCR, and promptly left the room in order to tackle the long list of chores she had that day.

My cousins were toddlers. I was a small child.

I’m sure that my aunt believed that what she had set us down in front of was harmless. And it initially was. My cousins and I laughed at silly cartoons of goofy animals. The images were dated, but still quite funny. And watching them made me feel good.

Somewhere around the middle of the tape, the images changed. The animals vanished. There were no longer quick-witted bunnies or dim-witted pigs. There were black people. Black people that were designed to look like animals. Gargantuan lips. Inhuman noses. Blue-black skin.

Images all based on caricatures designed to ridicule the features of black people. Images that I saw before me.

I cried. I actually cried until I made myself physically ill. But I wouldn’t tell anyone what was wrong.

A few days later I approached my mother and told her that I didn’t want to be ugly anymore. I told her that I wanted to be white.

My mother looked at me and smiled. She told me if I waited in the bedroom for her that she would make me white. I waited, and after a few moments she entered with a bottle of lotion. She spread the lotion out in a thick layer on my legs as if she was icing a cake. My chocolate brown skin began to slip from view.

She stopped after a few moments and looked at me.

“Doesn’t that look silly?”

I nodded as she bent over to wipe the lotion from my legs.

“See? You’re not supposed to be white! You’re exactly how God made you to be. You understand?”

I understood perfectly. God meant for me to be black. He meant for me to be ugly. And I believed that for a long time. Because that’s what the images I had seen had taught me to believe.

I’m actually terrified to have kids. Because it’s inevitable that my children are going to come across the same type of caricatures that I did as a child. Why? Because comic and cartoon fandoms cling to these caricatures and cherish them. They create new ones based upon the older incarnations. They place these images above the basic human dignity of black people. They tell black people that nostalgia is more important than their humanity.

What am I going to tell my child when he or she comes across these images? How am I going to rebuild his or her spirit when the images break it? Because my mother’s initial approach? Did not work. And fandom simply isn’t going to let these images go. They don’t respect us enough to do so.

So, what am I supposed to do?

Truth/Reconciliation: Morehouse on My Mind

by Guest Contributor Jafari Sinclaire Allen


Congratulations, Michael Brewer.

I have never walked across the stage on the Morehouse College campus green to receive my degree. On the first day of our indoctrination in 1986, who would have thought I would end up as one of those missing in action four years later? The upperclassman speaking prophesized: “Look to your left and your right. Four years later, one of these brothers will not be here,” and in 1990 one of those brothers was me. I was an “out” gay man at Morehouse College. On my would-be graduation day, I contemplated what
looked like a dismal future, by Morehouse standards—no Morehouse degree and no respect from the men that made up my peer group.

A recent article in the Los Angles Times, by Richard Fausset, bookends the recent history of homophobia and gay awakening at Morehouse with the heinous 2002 baseball-bat beating of a Morehouse student, Greg Love, by a dormitory mate, Aaron Price, and the historic “No More ‘No Homo’ ” events organized by Michael Brewer and members of the campus organization, Safe Space, in April 2008. For me, this recalls memories that I had put away, but which provide the foundations of my life as a scholar and activist. The fact that homophobia at Morehouse is not unique or unusual with respect to heterosexism and homophobia in society at large should be obvious. The institution represents rather, the “perfect storm” of homophobia —racial and class anxieties of “exceptional Negroes,” masculine gender trouble, class conflict and fundamentalist religious baggage [or as some might say, "heritage" or "tradition."] These seas roil and skies open up in an international climate of heterosexism and misogyny. Homophobia at Morehouse is therefore instructive, dramatic and sad, but not rare in our world. Continue reading

Write Up: Meeting David Wilson

by Latoya Peterson

Last weekend, while channel surfing, I was flying through my channel line up when my remote paused on a program I had heard about for quite some time – Meeting David Wilson.

The MSNBC site describes the documentary:

David Wilson was a 28-year-old African-American man from Newark, New Jersey. He grew up in a tough, urban neighborhood, but managed to navigate his way out of poverty and into the world of news production in New York City. Now, meet another David Wilson: a 62-year-old white man from rural North Carolina. He grew up in Caswell County, where his ancestors once farmed tobacco. He now operates a small chain of BBQ restaurants in nearby Reidsville. Although they have never met, the two men share more than just a name…

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., MSNBC premiered “Meeting David Wilson,” the remarkable and inspiring story of a young man’s reconciliation with his ancestors’ history as slaves. The world premiere of “Meeting David Wilson,” was hosted by “Today” Correspondent Tiki Barber and followed by a 90-minute live discussion of racial issues in America.

I had heard of this story on NPR, the black man who tracked down his ancestors and the descendants of the family that owned them. I was intrigued. But Meeting David Wilson is so much more than just a meeting, or just a story of two families – it is one of the few documentaries I have seen able to dig deep into the issues that have resulted from race and slavery in an accessible, humanized way. Continue reading

The New Yorker and Hipster Racism

by Guest Contributor AJ Plaid, originally published at The Cruel Secretary

By now, you’ve seen the latest New Yorker cover, with the Obamas garbed in the gear of the latest fear-mongering Americans’ wet dream.

Of course, people at Michelle Obama Watch, Daily Kos, Politico, and other blogs have expressed rightful and righteous outrage over the cover.

The Washington Post’s and CNN’s Reliable Sources’ Howard Kurtz said: “I talked to the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, who tells me this is a satire, that they are making fun of all the rumors,” Kurtz added. (Source)

Bill Burton, The Obama campaign spokesperson, responded: “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree.” (Source)

My current live-in partner, who works at the New Yorker, just couldn’t believe that so many people responded so angrily at the cover at the Daily Kos and other sites. He “wanted to see [my] reaction.” When I emphatically told him that I didn’t find it funny, he said, “You’re so angry.”

“Of course I’m angry. What do you expect? This is my reaction is to your employer doing something so racist.”

“I’m trying to have some fun here.”

Humph, you gotta love hipster racism. Continue reading

Interracial Dating: A Nigerian Perspective

by Guest Contributor Sewere

I grew up in a country where despite the fact that the vast majority of people there are black folks, there are serious limitations to interactions between people from different ethnic groups.

These differences are particularly pronounced when it comes to who you decide to pair with (dating or marriage). As the product of one of those forbidden marriages, I grew up not paying any attention to who I could or could not date (obviously believing that the person should respect both my heritages and my family.) I pretty much stuck to that mantra when I moved to the U.S. So I am often surprised when I find myself pulled into conversations like the one I with a friend of my cousin’s….

Cousin [interjecting out of nowhere]: You know he’s dated white women?

Friend: What is it with these brothers with dread locks chasing after white women?

Me [playing the oblivious]: I don’t know, it probably because The Man ™ put something into the beeswax. Continue reading