THE PERCEPTION OF RACE IS NOT COLOR. IT IS SOMETHING MORE DISTURBING.Recently, a Black actress friend of mine told me that her manager advised her to use her British accent in an audition in order to increase her chances of getting a job. When she asked him why, he said bluntly, "If they know you're not from here, they will think you're more interesting."
More interesting? I thought as my hand started to break the coffee cup I held. Of course, this germinated in my brain for a long time and now it's coming out.
In 2008 we elected our first Black President. People quickly pointed out that he was really only half Black and that black part was not from this country. He spoke well, was intelligent and decent, you know, not like the rest of us and so was deserving of consideration.
Well, this really ushered in an even bigger notion of ethnicity, the "non-black or un-black and the black skinned non-American." Obama was Black, but not really, American but not the descendant of slaves. Six years and a government shutdown later, un-black blackness is de riguer in our nation. And I am not talking about some esthetic notion, I'm talking about actual unblack people.
In music, we see this most commonly. There was a time when "blue-eyed soul" was an actual term. Now, all the white people sing like Black people. While we weren't looking, they just jacked our swag and started giving each other awards.
As everyone knows, the Rhythm and Blues Grammy categories were started because Blacks were initially left out of the music awards and rather than have black and white compete, we created separate but equal trophies.
Now, we don't even win those anymore. I like Justin Timberlake, but really? My man is Black until he hears a siren, then he'll turn back white faster than you can say wardrobe malfunction and Eminem was all niggy with it until he got on the wrong side of a felony and then Marshall Mathers showed up in court in a suit and tie looking like Paul Ryan.
SNL went through hell just to hire one black woman but Mindy Kaling has been on TV in her own show for two years now. Okay, they whitewashed her on the cover of that magazine but she still got the cover. My point is, she's dark but not black, the same way some actors are black but not American.
What the heck am I getting at?
Racism is clinging to the ledge of a tall building and we are stamping at its fingers. But it's hanging, on, trying to find new ways to exist and hide its filthy, evil heart. Apparently, darkness is not the thing that drives racism, it's something under the skin, fused to the bones of American history. You see, when dark skin is linked to the legacy of slavery, murder and oppression, it makes certain people feel bad, guilty and dare I say, afraid. And in this happy ass age of false perfection, no one with any affluence wants to feel bad for one second about anything, ever.
So, a dark Indian girl is preferable to a Black American woman, a British black man is not so worrisome as one born here, or a Black American descendant of slaves is worse than say, a half-white descendant of an African national who was raised by white people in Hawaii.
Are you kidding me?
How thin is the knife that splits that hair?
But I will not lay this at the feet of others. If the image of black people is devalued or not valued at all, we can blame ourselves for that because we don't stand against it. If we want to give everyone a pass who steals our culture, denigrates our images and feeds us their idea of who we should be, then, again, it's our fault.
And maybe we shouldn’t care so much what other think of us and start valuing ourselves. But that would come with responsibility, a sense of community and a self-love that we have not had for a long, long, time. Well, better start practicing your cockney accent because American blackness is beginning to look like an empty basket at holiday time.