(Editor's Note: The events that transpired on Friday and over the weekend delayed the writing of this article. May Jah be with the families and friends of those senselessly killed in Newtown, Ct, Memphis, Tn and Las Vegas, Nv.)
I've often joked with new friends and acquaintances about my origins. Las Vegas has the stigma that 'no one is from here,' so the question of where someone is from is inevitable. When asked, I often reply by saying it's the only thing Steve Martin and I have in common, that I too was born a poor Black child in Mississippi. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtmi4Nc-3dE
So, growing up in the deep South, I had the chance to see just how prejudiced and racist this world can be. Under race/ethnicity on my birth certificate it actually even reads "Negro." I kid you not. That was 1971.
I grew up in an area where, sadly enough, there was a commonly accepted and well-circulated saying: "If you're white, you're all right; if you're brown, stay around; but if you're Black, get back." It was basically a way of keeping us 'in our place', so to speak.
There was also still the idea that, not only were Blacks inferior, but that features typical of Blacks were less attractive or desirable than those of whites. Imagine how damaging that can be to the psyche of your young son or daughter.
Now extend it to the entirety of a race.
It's hard enough to weather the now more subtle racism that can be seen in everyday life and in the media without having to suffer such slings and arrows from those of my own race.
Allow me to take a step back and lay down what happened in case the other events of the weekend drowned out the white noise that came from the four-letter network.
Last Thursday morning on ESPN's First Take, Rob Parker responded to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's saying in a recent interview that he didn’t want to be defined as a Black quarterback. A subject about which If It Ain't Steel recently wrote in agreement. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-plight-of-black-quarterback-past.html
Parker said that, as a Black man himself, he has a lot of questions about Robert Griffin III.
“My question is, and it’s just a straight, honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?,” Parker said. “He’s not really. He’s Black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.”
Parker was just getting rolling, because he went on to say that he wanted to know more about his personal life before accepting RGIII as a real brother.
“I want to find about him,” Parker continued. “I don’t know because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancee. Then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, ‘I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me Black.’ So people wondered about Tiger Woods.”
Tiger? That Asian golfer? Why bring him into this?
Seriously, though, Woods is more Asian than Black, so the comparison is inaccurate. Parker, though, is referring to Woods labeling (for lack of a better word) himself a "Cablinasian" (an abbreviation he came up with from Caucasian, Black, American Indian, and Asian).
To the point, how, in 2012, can a Black commentator go all Uncle Tom's Cabin on another Black man, claiming that he's selling out or not living up to a tired stereotype? Really?
I know my people, and I know we sometimes feel indirectly responsible for our brothers and sisters. Be it flaw or strength, I've seen it for many years. I still ask why should any of it even matter to him? Why should it matter to anyone, for that matter? RGIII's political leanings are his own. The statement regarding the "talk about he's a Republican" perpetuates a further stereotype, that all Black people are Democrats. Parkers' presenting it as if it's a personal affront only makes him look foolish. Foolishness that got him suspended. - http://tinyurl.com/cxekkt4
But what raises my ire the most is Parker's bringing RGIII's fiancé into it because she's white. Being that the woman whom I hope marry is a white woman, I take personal offense to that aspect of Parker's commentary. (Like Woods, she's actually mixed, but she's "Brattyasian.")
Am I not "really" Black because the woman with whom I fell in love is a white woman? Am I suddenly Carlton and should I join the Tom Jones fan club? It is a very singular irritant to me when my "Blackness", or that of any of my brothers and sisters, is questioned because of preferences or choices made. I love whom I choose to love, as does RGIII and anyone else.
Nor do I have to drink a forty dog and smoke a blunt while my hat is turned back with my corn rows braided and wearing my pants around my knees while sportin' phat kicks with big, loose laces sayin' "Yo, yo, yo, my ni**a!" every other sentence to be Black!
Hey, I'm gonna let all y'all in on a secret. You want to know a great way to really piss off a Black person? Find the right one and tell him/her that they "talk white." Trust me, it won't be a pleasant conversation. If all you get in return is, "How the hell is someone going to "talk white?!" White is a color! No, b**ch, I speak correct English", consider yourself fortunate. (Don't send me any doctor's bills if it winds up being worse than that.)
Did you see what I did there? I played on another stereotype, that of the 'angry Black man/woman', to make a point while attempting to incur a jocular reaction.
Amongst friends, in locker rooms, for standup comedians, etc...these things may be considered as having their place. But certainly not in a venue that supposedly is designed to inform. A point which Stephen A. Smith made abundantly clear.
“First of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went,” Smith said when he was asked to respond to Parker. “RGIII, the ethnicity or the color of his fiancé is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”
With the Mayan calendar ending, Smith's being the voice of reason is daunting. That notwithstanding, I'm not that kind of guy, either. Because remember, Black is just a color too.
Whether one is "high yella" (think Smokey Robinson or Nicole Ari Parker-Kodjoe) or an "ebony prince/princess" (think Djimon Hounsou or Serena Williams), we're of the Black race. And, as John Sweat Rock is credited as saying, "black is beautiful."
Further still, it is ultimately the makeup of one's being that defines a person. Or, as someone once put it, "the content of their character." - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs
To keep that dream from turning into too much of a nightmare, we as a people need to remember that despite all our struggles, hardships and all that we've overcome, we're still all of the same race -- the human race.