You’re Special So Just Deal With Racism
I was listening to the Diane Rehm show as they discussed biracial people with respect to President Barack Obama. Although he is obviously of African descent, people refer to his ethnicity as biracial. I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of black people in America are biracial. It is a sure as fire bet that people in my family are. But I consider myself African American or black just like Mr. Obama considers himself African American or black.
For me, it’s a comfortable arrangement because I look African American or black. I’m not trying to be anything else. So when people look at me, they see exactly what I’m trying to promote myself as, a black man. I would imagine that it would be uncomfortable if people looked at me, recognized me as a being what we traditionally know as a black man, and I’m doing my best to be something else. Obviously black people like Tiger Woods have the ability to promote themselves as not black and people will buy that argument because these previously known as obviously black profiled people can use their notoriety to muddle the issue and transcend their race.
The problem comes when black people who may look like me but would rather not be considered part of the black community don’t have the resources to change their racial identity with a nationally televised press conference. Not too long ago, I remember watching a commercial for one of those dime store People’s Court knockoffs. There was a woman of obvious African descent shaking her head in stereotypical black fashion while telling the judge that she didn’t care for black women. The judge responded that if she didn’t like black women she didn’t like herself. The woman responded, I’m not black. The judge responded with an incredulous, What! It was the kind of “What!” that makes your face scrunch up as you say it while your body is being jerked back a tad by an invisible hook. Obviously, the judge didn’t get this woman’s memo.
Honestly, what can we expect when we live in a society that promotes such disdain towards black people and such emphasis upon race? This is a society founded on the racist principle that if you are black then you are white people’s property. And if you aren’t white people’s property but a freed man person then you are only three fifths that of a white person. And even after institutionalized slavery was stopped, the practice of Jim Crow stepped right in to keep the racial divide as wide as possible. And even after the institutionalized discrimination of Jim Crow and other laws were declared illegal, blatant racial discrimination simply converted itself to the down low kind where the sign saying “no blacks” was taken down but black people still weren’t welcome. The burden of proof falls on the victim’s shoulder and the fact that an organization is void of black people isn’t proof. You have to find a smoking gun like a memo that says something like we don’t like black people and we will never hire black people and we hope all black people will die tomorrow.
So now that we try to pretend there is no racism towards black people and that the fact that black people in any and every social measure fall short of their white counterparts, why would people want to consider themselves black when all they have to do is find that one ancestor or elder in the blood line that proves their otherness. It’s nothing for some black people to say something like they found out that their great grandma Suzie on their dad’s mother side was white so therefore they are no longer black but biracial! They find their get out of blackness card!
If only it was that easy. As I continued to listen to the Diane Rehm show, a caller told her story about what happened to her biracial daughter at some store preparing for a birthday party. There was a white woman with her white daughter in the same aisle looking for party favors. At some point, the little white girl turned to the little biracial girl and said, you can’t come to my party because you’re black. The mother of the biracial girl countered this early lesson on racial discrimination by letting her daughter know how special she was.
The mother never said what her ethnicity was but I doubt if it was black. Most black people know that telling your daughter that she is special doesn’t always make up for the fact that little white girls don’t want her at their birthday parties. If anything the mother of the biracial girl that is obviously black should have told the mother of the little white girl that she’s raising quite the social racist. The mother could have demonstrated to her biracial daughter first hand that she shouldn’t tolerate such blatant forms of racial discrimination.
Being told she’s special won’t keep her daughter from being excluded from future job opportunities. That’s why some black people are so happy to kick their blackness to the curb at the first opportunity. Did I say opportunity? They’ll do it even if there’s no opportunity to do it. Why wait? The little biracial girl may look like a black girl to the little white girl. But she’s not black at all but biracial or, even better, she’s special. Teaching her daughter to say nothing is to teach her daughter to tolerate the racial discrimination that comes her way with platitudes of feel goodness.
Regardless, it’s just a matter of time before special becomes a racial category. Some time in the future there will be no black people. From a strictly technical perspective the vast majority of people who look black will actually be considered biracial or multi racial. Maybe along with the question to identify your ethnicity there should be second question, have people ever looked at you and assumed you were black? In the future little white girls might say something like, you can’t come to my birthday party because you’re special and you look like you’re black.