So, just what does it mean to not be “black enough?” While it was the most recent controversy between two high profile black men in sports that brings this question to the forefront, the questions of race and identity and what it means to be black have never been sufficiently addressed. First of all, I’m not into sports, so the fact that RGIII is a celebrity, makes little difference to me. But the race and identity discussion does catch my attention, since I am African-American, I work in Diversity, and this question unfortunately hits too close to home. As a mother, I’ve been dealing with this issue on behalf of my children for decades unabated. My fifteen year old daughter was outraged just a few months ago when she experienced this in her “magnet school” that lacks much diversity. A kid at her school told her she wasn’t black like the kids at a different school. I too faced this same challenge as a child when my father took us from the north to the south while doing migrant work. My sisters and I were often mocked and ridiculed by the other kids who said, “We talked proper.” It didn’t stop there, many times in my career have I heard the ignorant comment, “You’re different!” What’s that supposed to mean? Although it was usually meant as a compliment, it left me with the same distaste as it did as a child. I interpreted that comment as:”I’ve got this definition of what it is to be black, and you don’t fit it!” Rather than the person admitting that perhaps their definition of blackness was flawed, instead I was the anomaly. “I was different!” So I got it from both sides, both black and white.
Who gets to define what “black enough” is: black people, white people or no one? Before I go on, let me point out one thing. Color is just an accident of climate. People who live closer to the equator have become darker over the centuries than those who live in more cooler climates. Race does not define a person’s values, character, or identity. There are those with good character and values and those without it in every ethnic group. And finally, we are all members of one human race. There is no black race, white race, or brown race. We are all humans and part of one race, one human family. You are more apt to pick up traits from your environment and culture than from people who have the same “color” as you. We all have different traits, yet we are predominantly the same: “There are more than three million differences between your genome and anyone else’s. On the other hand, we are all 99.9 percent the same, DNA-wise.” 99.9% says it all. Race and color are cloaks for other things, racism, imperialism, and a convenient way to separate people to justify preferential treatment for some and disparate treatment for others.