Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Black Enough: A debate

I’m sure everybody has heard all about the Obama ordeal and his crazy former pastor. First of all, I’d like to say that if you happen to have missed the speech in its entirety, please go see it for yourself. Do not simply listen to the pundits and see it from the point of view of Bill O’reilly or Rush Limbaugh. Do not catch a phrase here or there as it flashes up on the screen as this person or that person weighs in. Do not read an overview in the paper or a few key quotes that are highlighted on MSN when you open your browser. Do not get the “gist” of it from your friend over the phone. It’s not the same and you will simply miss it. Not only will you probably completely miss the point and his real response to all that has happened, you will miss the message. And the message my dear friends, is an important one. This is not a political blog and I am not a fiercely political person but I believe that this speech is important to hear far beyond the relation it has to the specific incident that spurred it.

But like I said, this is not a political blog so lets move on to what caught my attention while watching this speech and somehow make this post about ME! During the speech Obama reiterated something that has, and will continue to be, an issue that he as a black man will continue to face as a presidential hopeful. ”To some I’m not black enough, and to others I’m too black.” I am always stupefied by this. The notion of “too black” or “not black enough.” If Goldilocks could stop by and point out to me the juuuust right black person, it would be extremely helpful. Because then I would at least have a measuring stick and I could go around myself holding it up to folks and making a judgment call. I’m pretty sure my sister would need to come up with about 40% more blackness to be acceptable. (I kid, I kid.)

I’m mixed. I know it seems like they might have gotten carried away with the chocolate syrup when they were pouring it in the milk, but you can thank my Dad for that. Well, that and the Arizona sun. I have never in my life claimed to have it hard because I’m bi-racial. I am not extra confused or totally unable to identify with this or that group. I’ve simply identified with whatever was around and if that meant I was a fan of New Kids of the Block instead of New Edition, so be it. I say “like” a lot. And “totally”. And sometimes I put one in front of the other and I like totally sound…. Like Brianna I guess. I’m not really worried about it. But other people are and that is just so weird to me.

I will admit I don’t know how to dance that well. But I do run really fast because of that extra muscle I have. And I like sweet potato pie. I’ve even tried to convert all of my non-black friends and family members. I finally read Roots a couple summers ago so I never again will foolishly ask who Chicken George is. I do sometimes wash my hair every day and I don’t mind jumping in a pool, BUT if I straighten it, I try and make it through 4 whole days. It could be longer if I ever learned how to wrap it properly but you know...moms could never teach me herself. And yes I know I don’t have the traditional “apple bottom” but I continue to squat really heavy so that I can get the most out of it. I go to a predominantly Black church now, but I never used to. There would just be a guy with a guitar and a few people singing into mikes and everybody else would kind of whisper sing and sometimes clap if it was appropriate. You would be out in an hour and a half--tops. It was cool but I prefer gospel choirs.

So what do you say, am I "black enough"? And before people start really answering and telling me that yes, I do in fact pass their blackness test, that is not the real question of the debate. I am moreso interested in people's thoughts on the whole idea that society is concerned about how certain people measure up to this obscure measuring tape. What exactly is considered 'enough', who is judging, and when will we not care...or something insightful like that.


Teej said...

So know I wrote on this before, right?

I too have pondered what exactly determines whats black and whats not. And what I came up with doesnt exist. Its all just bs by someone who needs to categorize you to feel comfortable. Either that or they are hapless victims of mass media and believe everything they see on tv and in the papers. I pity them.
Like I said in my blog Ive dealt with this in my own family, and basically it's like.."Whatever!"

But dont REALLY prefer NKOTB over New Edition do you? I may have to reconsider this friendship....

12kyle said...

coming thru for the 1st time...nice blog

I think the notion that Obama's "not black enough" is ridiculous to me. How black do you want him to be? Do you want him to be H Rap Brown? Do you want him to be Malcolm X? They were great men but they weren't interested in bringing this country together. However, they paved the way for a brother like Obama to come through. It's that old "crabs in a barrel" mentality that still cripples us a as a people. If Obama can't lead this country, then tell me another black man who could!

Good post!

btw...New Edition was and still is the shyt!

Nigel "6five" Bigbee said...

I do understand where you are coming from. I am the most chocolate person on the Earth and because my father introduced me to different types of music and I experienced different types of cultures, enjoyed them and in some cases exude part of these "non-black" or "less- than black" qualities, I have been persecuted. (Maybe not persecuted but definitely talked about) It just comes down to being comfortable in your own skin. The people who judge who is black or what qualities consist of black, are the people who haven't given up the "slave mentality". It's one thing to remember and recognize but these people let those thoughts be the driving force in their life.

On another note, Miss Bri, I must commend you on the excellent blog you are producing.

Brianna said... better not have linked to your blog and then people go to it and they find it's more insightful and well written than mine! but i'd just like to say that NOW i do like new edition. i was just a late bloomer!

@kyle...welcome! I was thinking that if Obama doesn't make it maybe Diddy can give it a shot next time...

@nigel...tell the truth, you listen to country don't you??? jk. thank you for your comment.

Jackie Edwards said...

Brianna you are getting mighty insightful and thought provoking on your blog here. I'm not really surprised though because I told you a long time ago that I thought you should submit some stuff to some magazines,et and see what happens. That being said, I've always hated the whole not black enough thing. You know I've heard it all before myself!! Whatever. People are going to say whatever they want to to make themselves feel better and I've finally realised that that is just their problem!!

the gamelord said...

People this is America. Just as we categorize food, cars, schools, etc., so will people be categorized. Everything and everyone must have its neat little place in the Divided States. Although there is no definitive method to measure "blackness", there are discernible cultural difference that makes us US. Those cultural differences have revolutioned the major sports, music and had a dramatic influence on American culture as a whole. The downside of those differences are that they have led to a stereotypical image of what supposedly makes a person black. We all can't hoop like Kobe/Lebron, we all can't dance like Usher, don't all dress like Bishop Magic Don Juan(thank GOD) or talk like Flavor Flav. In large part, due to the media, we have become a ridiculous charicature. I think as a black person, just like anyone else, you are a product of your upbringing, education and environment. Although we are somewhat bound by our common heritage and traditions, brothas and sistahs in the rural South, major urban centers and those stuck in the 'burbs are not all the same. Just like Nigel, I was exposed to different cultures, music and activities at an early age which greatly influenced who I am today. Does the fact that I play and enjoy tennis make me a sellout or any less black (well maybe not thanks the Williams sisters)? My point is there is not a cookie cutter image of what is or who is black. Hopefully, B.O. will make it into office and show our people that above anything black is the color of success.

My two cents and some change.

bigmoneygrip said...

What a great post. Thank you.

Barry Ingram

Jasmine said...

i love you even if you're too black or not black enough! :)

for the record, it wasn't Little Red Riding Hood who coined the phrase Juuuuuust was Goldilocks, silly! ;)

you need to go back to preschool! :D

Nigel "6five" Bigbee said...

HAHA Country not so much, but that Techno/Trance music is my ISH!!!

Brianna said...

@jackie...we both know how YOU had to learn all about black people. lol.

@gamelord...we are a product of our upbringing, education, and environment. exactamundo.

@jasmine...shoot!!! i was thinking to myself "what kid story is it???" you know my memory though. i'm going to change it and hope you are the only one that noticed.

DES said...

Great blog Ms. Glenn. I think it also has relevance to those Black people that pursue excellence outside the confines of sports or entertainment. You find that those people who strive to be Richard E. Parsons (CEO of Time Warner, for those that don't know) instead of Michael Jordan or Diddy is also regularly confronted with the "Black enough" question.

Anonymous said...

It's been my observation, for the most part anyway, that those who say 'not black enough' are those who, by virtue of nothing but color, feel they are owed something by 'white' society because their ancestors were brought here years ago and abused as slaves. They would have you standing next to them in the welfare line, gang banging, smoking dope, etc., because anyone that has worked for any kind of success in their lives has obviously 'sold out', (how degrading is that, you can’t be successful just because you are who you are) rather than just being a person of no color that cares about themselves and their betterment. For the rest of us, 'not black enough' or 'too black' is the ridiculous stuff that keeps racism alive and well.

brit_brat said...

Oh hell naw! You did not just make fun of my 'lack-of-blackness' in your blog!
I'm going to comment on this, but I need to eat something while the baby is asleep so I shall be back!!

(I know you'll be eagerly waiting at the edge of your seat!)

dejanae said...

hold up
30 minute church service?
where this at?

good post
define urself
dont nobody fit into them narrow categories
once you let others define you, you lose the power

creolejoe said...

First & foremost I whole heartdley agree with Jackie E. submit your phenomanal blogs to somebodys magazine asap--your a natural at this--plus your hot--so mens health, maxim s.i. since you gotta "in" with them:)
Well, I'm 6-2 kinda in shape, light skinnded, curly hair handsome well spoken black man in america who ain't gay and I listen to a shit load of U2, Led Zep, & Van Halen. I love Alvin Ailey I read alot and don't play any video games--however I love gin & tonics & smoke pot about once a week. My entire family immigrated from West Africa(Cape Verde Islands) & I'm Bilingual.
So-The black american experience didn't happen to me until I moved to Atlanta--"red" kool-aid fried fish (whitting) & spaghetti-I felt good about going to church in the south cause I always hooked up with a hot chick as oppose to the guilt back home at St. James(catholic)
White folks always say high to me and white girls always say and ask me stupid shit and white dudes--well need i say more---Black folk on the other hand-"damn--nigga you creole or mixxed with italian or something?"-Naaaa homie my parents are West African---" nigga please you ain't african"--well i'm african & american----so Obama has got my vote on G.P. alone--his speech was stunning and heart felt and so damn Presidential! It will go down in history as one of the most significant moments of socio-political inspiring moments of all time--I think he left no room for any question of how incredible of a man he is--the pundints & o'riellys & limbaughs are nothing--that crazy pastor of Obama examined the policy's of our great countrys flawed leadership--how can God Bless America when we have fucked over so many--with no lube--i.e afgahnistan in the late 70's--we pimped them to get russia out of the country during the cold war & then left the people there with nothing--not even a pot to piss in---sorry but our leadership at that time created & empowered Al'quida no ands, ifs, or but's about that!--this is a dolla's worth--i'm crazy bout cha--gimmie blog gimmie blog---j.p.

Ehav Ever said...

Interesting post. I really think that in the US identity issues such as the "black" or even "white" issue need some looking into. There are a number of people who are following methods of identification, which have no scientific, cultural, or historical truth behind them. The whole "black" and "white" thing was created by racist several hundred years ago. Now you have people who accept as if it is law, and they use it to alienate people.

When I was younger in the US people used to give me the "Your not black enough thing." After a while I simply accepted it since my family came from about 3 different nationalities. We also spoke several different languages besides English. I asked someone where this big book of correct and incorrect "black" behavior exists because I have never heard of it.

Personally, I go by culture, language, and nationality more than anything else. Living here in Israel it is a lot easier to be who you are based on your family background, culture, and language than when I lived in the US and everything was skin colored related.

I think one of the reasons there are put downs on Obama not being black enough is because he has the ability to transcend the issue. The fact that his father was from Kenya, specifically the Luo ethnic group, causes some people to have an element of jealousy because he can identify his ancestry.

Kiemie said...

Wow! You really hit it on the head. When you decide to hang up the spikes, you might want to look into writing because you are really good at it! The crazy thing about the topic at hand is that there will never be a right answer. I've always wondered why you don't hear Hispanic or white people have these discussions. It's almost seems as if the african american(or any oher label you choose to use) community is constantly going through an internal identity crisis. We are our worst critics and thats just sad.

Ron Bramlett said...

Ha Ha!! I get that all the time! And when people find out I'm married, they assume I married a white woman.. After they see/meet my wife, the next time they see me they'll say, "Hey, Ron.. I didn't know your wife was black!"

That always left me wondering why someone would think that.. and why would they say it??

And its funny because I even get that from white people.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Bri, Jasmine was wrong. It was Goldilocks who said that it was juuust right (EG: chair, porriage, softness of the bed, etc).

By the way, this post was juuust right!

(PS Do you remember my blogger password? I forgot it.)

Track Evangelist said...

the whole notion of black or not black enough is crazy! those kinds of conversations tear peeps apart rather than focusing on the the shared experiences.

most of what people talk about as being "black" are cultural measures. and those "images" of blackness references are often other folks images of "blackness."

i think the only "measure" that matters is our own.

Malibu said...

I love your blog! You never cease to entertain! I totally feel you on this one! Especially the "apple bottom" and music choices. I grew up in a predominantly white upper-middle class neighborhood in ALABAMA!! You can't even begin to imagine me going to family functions and my cousins asking me "WHY are you talking WHITE??!!??" This is my own family! LOL I've learned overtime that people are always going to have their opinions. You just have to stay true to who you are. Growing up I found myself acting one way at home/school and a totally different way around my family (cousins, aunts, etc) and black friends. You can imagine the inner turmoil. Luckily, I grew up and now I know better!! Great post!!

Anonymous said...

hey... i get it all the time, dont worry about it. lol

Marcus said...

I just thought whether you liked mayonaisse determined whether you were black or not. Am I missing something?