THE BLOG
08/12/2014 02:46 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2014

The Authentic Blackness Debate Still Rears It Opinionated Head

A few weeks ago, a few journalists argued that President Obama waded into the often precarious "acting white" debate when he responded to a question from a young Native American man who inquired as to what the federal government was doing to help his ethnic group "revitalize their language and culture." The president, in his usual measured and thoughtful comments, responded in somewhat pastoral terms as he quoted the bible, commenting that "without a vision, people will perish," and how an absence of such an identity can lead to further erosion of one's physical, psychological and emotional health. That being said he later transitioned into a DuBoisian (W.E.B. DuBois) moment when he told the young person in question that there was nothing irregular or counterfeit for a person to further embrace the larger culture while simultaneously celebrating and preserving their own.

After the summit, a number of media outlets from the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to op-ed columnists from the Washington Post and other national newspapers weighed in on what they saw as President Obama reigniting the "acting white" controversy. For the record, the usual anti-Obama Wall Street Journal praised the president and his administration for establishing the program. There were others like blogger, CNN commentator and frequent Obama critic Dr. Boyce Watkins, professor at Syracuse University, who argued that the program was "too little too late." Watkins further argued that the president, his administration and inner circle have failed to address the issue of persistent discrimination and chronic unemployment that plagued large portions of the black community, particularly lower income and urban communities. That being said, the majority of political and cultural pundits who have commented on the subject have focused on what they saw as the "acting white" assumption being bought back to the forefront of political and social debate. It is a subject that sporadically returns to the forefront of debate in many segments of the black community. In 2011, the topic was ripe in the black blogosphere (and social media in general) after NBA basketball star Grant Hill masterfully and eloquently responded to Jalen Rose's critical comments directed toward he (Grant) and other black athletes (and black people in general) who were/are the products of more upscale and privileged backgrounds.

Speaking of sports, I still have not forgotten the tirade of former ESPN commentator Robert Parker as he launched into a vicious, condescending tirade attacking NFL player Robert Griffith in 2012 demanding to know whether Griffith was a "real brother" or a "cornball brother." Parker was more specifically attacking what was rumored to be Griffith's Republican party political affiliation, his then white fiancé, now wife, and what he perceived to be his (Griffith's) other supposed "misguided" decisions. After hearing such a screed, you would have thought that Parker was one of the gatekeepers of blackness and a card carrying member of the black thought police (sarcasm). Reaction to Parker (from people of all races ) was swift and he was dismissed from ESPN soon afterward.

Speaking closer to home, I wonder if someone like myself who likes to listen to Peter Frampton, Band of Horses, One Republic and Irish music is in the "danger zone" of losing one's authentic blackness. Perhaps, it might be best for me to shout from the mountaintops that I love love gospel music. Cry passionate alligator tears that I love a fair amount of jazz and blues music. Swear on a stack of bibles that I actually do love the late Michael Jackson (as do many non-whites), adore James Brown, Aretha Franklin as well as classic R&B and soul music in general. The fact is that Irish music is indeed, very soulful. It is the European version of black gospel music. Not to add insult to injury (sarcasm) but I am a voracious reader! And get this, sometimes I read books that are absent of black subject matter! Uh Oh! Am I suspect? For the diehard members of the black thought militia, I have probably come close to committing racial treason. I am a "SUSPECT" negro so to speak or at the very least, unreliable and largely artificial. After all, in their eyes, deviating from such supposedly "authentic black" behavior may have almost certainly qualified me as a prime candidate for a Dave Chapelle skit.

Goodness knows if it were any group of people who should know how demeaning it is to be pre-judged, be passed judgment on, assumed on how you will behave, how you think, how intelligent you are (or supposedly not) etc., based on the pigmentation of your skin, it is black people. Yet, some (not all, by any means, but probably too many of us) from barbershops to beauty shops, to houses of worship to soul food diners and other similar venues, have no hesitation in engaging in racial histrionics, sitting around passing judgment either ratifying or disqualifying one another based on what are far too often superficial values. THE DEGREE OF HYPOCRISY IS REAL!

The hard, true fact is that all of us who are black regardless of socio-economic status or educational level at some point in our lives will be confronted with the reality that your skin color (minus those few who can choose to pass if they want to) will render you vulnerable to the fact that you are the "other" in the eyes of some whites and some other non-Blacks. There is no need to engage in unscientific racial litmus tests to do so. There are enough issues plaguing the black community, internal as well as external, as it is. We are all pretty much in the same boat. There is no need to add unnecessary baggage.

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