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An Open Letter to Rob Parker

Posted: Updated:

Mr. Parker,

As a matter of full disclosure I must admit that I have never been a fan of your commentary. For some time I have been of the opinion that you are a soundbite looking for an audience. I have watched you on various ESPN shows over the years, most notably First Take. I have watched you attempt to spar with the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless and have been routinely unimpressed. Comments you made yesterday confirmed my opinion of not only your commentary but, as much as one can glean from a TV segment, you as a person.

For reasons only you could articulate, you called into question the blackness of Robert Griffin III. You went so far as to essentially grade his blackness. His white fiancée made him less black, while his braids made him more so. This was your response to Griffin's statement to the press the day before about wanting to be considered and recognized for more than his race.

The conversation you attempted to have on national television is one that has been pervasive within the black community for generations. The idea of the house negro, the Uncle Tom, the sellout or, as you so eloquently put it, the "cornball brother" has led our people to judge and grade each other's blackness. It is a conversation that puts our people in a box and limits our potential. It presumes what we are and can be, then penalizes those who attempt otherwise.

I started to write this letter as a defense of who Robert Griffin III is perceived to be. That would have been a mistake. Mounting a defense and quantifying blackness only legitimizes questioning blackness. I have had to learn these lessons personally and often painfully. I have had to defend my fair skin; I have had to defend my intellect; I have had to defend the company I keep in the name of blackness. I speak from experience when I say it's a tired conversation that has never done anyone any good.

Even Stephen A. Smith, who has on many occasions discussed controversial topics, including race, declined to involve himself in what was a conversation with no merit. Skip Bayless, on the other hand, let you hang yourself further (pardon the expression in this context) by asking you about Griffin's braids. I appreciate Bayless for further showing the depths of your ignorance.

Mr. Parker, I ask you: Have you ever publicly or privately questioned whether a white person was white enough? Have you ever found occasion to validate someone's gayness? Where does a Barack Obama or Corey Booker land on the the blackness scale?

In a few months I will be a father for the first time. My child will be raised by educated parents in a fairly affluent and very diverse Brooklyn neighborhood. To the fullest extent of my power, which admittedly isn't much, I will work to make sure that his or her blackness is not a weight that holds them down but a peak for them to be uplifted upon. Mr. Parker, my child will know who he or she is even if you and those like you do not.

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