What is Black?
“The suggestion that a Black person is ‘not really Black’ is tired and ignorant,” tweeted television mogul Shonda Rhimes in response to people questioning the blackness of 2020 presidential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris. “The Black experience has never been one size fits all—no matter how much old TV/films tried to make you thinks so.”
Unfortunately, many African-Americans cannot accept that fact.
Therefore, the mentality that the Black experience is only one particular thing causes us to remain divided in a world in which the chips are already stacked against us because of racism and discrimination.
The African-American community needs a Captain Obvious moment that brings a few things to light.
No, the Black experience is not one thing.
No, Black people are not coons if they have an opinion that is different than yours.
And no, your experience is not the official Black experience because we do not all think the same, believe the same, live the same and/or earn the same.
Nothing about us is the same.
If we realize that as a community, we hopefully will stop having the same counterproductive conversations that have existed amongst us for decades.
Just like President Barack Obama before her and every African-American who did not grow up in the projects, Sen. Harris finds herself dealing with haters who think that she does not possess enough blackness to be real.
Senator Harris is biracial with a Native American mother and a Jamaican father.
She married a White man.
Although she graduated from Howard University, a Historically Black college in Washington, D.C., and joined the predominantly African-American Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., she still is not Black enough for the gatekeepers of blackness and imaginary “wokeness.”
Unfortunately, ignorance like this is why we as African-Americans cannot progress and why oftentimes we are our own worse enemies.
Instead of racism holding the African-American community down, the community has enough internalized discrimination, internalized racism, jealousy, hatred towards one another and ignorance that we do not need White racism to keep us from achieving greatness.
Many of us do a good job of holding the African-American community down because many in the community cannot stand to see someone who looks like them actually become great.
While filming an episode of my talk show “Regal Roundtable,” Houston community activist Quanell X mentioned that President Obama was not an African-American because he did not grow up like most African-Americans.
Quanell said Obama did not eat the same foods as other African-Americans and did not grow up experiencing authentic African-American culture to paraphrase.
Immediately, I saw an opportunity to educate Quanell on blackness and let him know that his experience as an African-American man growing up in the Sunnyside community of southeast Houston is not the litmus test for blackness.
I told him that both of my parents grew up poor in Jim Crow Louisiana in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
But because my father came from the southeastern Louisiana town of Kentwood, La. and my mother came from Cajun country in Abbeville, La. they grew up eating different foods.
My mother’s family ate a lot of seafood because my grandfather, great uncle and aunt would spend a lot of their time fishing and crabbing.
On the contrary, my father’s family ate a lot of soul food because they lived on a farm.
My paternal grandparents had their own smokehouse for the pigs, planted peas, beans and watermelon, eating whatever they raised and grew on the farm.
I asked Quanell who were the real Black folks in that equation?
Both families dealt with some level of poverty.
Both families dealt with a lack of parental education.
Both families dealt with racism, attending segregated schools their entire childhoods and to some extent into graduate schools as both graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. and Texas Southern University in Houston, two Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
To Quanell’s logic, I guess my mother was less Black because White folks eat seafood too while the soul food my dad grew up eating was exclusively for Black folks.
As a result of my mother eating a lot of seafood growing up, I grew to like seafood more than soul food because she primarily handled the cooking while I grew up and she cooked the types of food her mother cooked.
On the other hand, one of my White childhood friends loves soul food so I guess that makes him more Black than me because I would rather eat seafood, Mexican food or Japanese food.
It makes no sense because by that logic African-Americans from the north who grew up eating navy beans and white beans instead of red beans, because navy beans are more prevalent up north than down south, are less Black than their Southern counterparts.
Or is it vice versa?
I am confused.
So I guess Black America has to take a vote or a poll on what we can and cannot eat to keep our blackness.
Food choice notwithstanding, having to meet certain qualifications to retain your blackness is detrimental because it seems African-Americans often equate blackness to being poor, uneducated, living in a violent community, not speaking correct English and not succeeding in life unless it is as a street pharmacist, gangster, athlete or entertainer.
Why can’t the epitome of blackness be Obama, astronaut Bernard Harris, scholars like Henry Louis Gates or billionaires like BET founder, Bob Johnson.
Why does Black have to always equal the bottom of the barrel and not the peak of the mountain?
The belief that some African-Americans have that blackness equals being broke, badly educated and bullet-ridden is simply internalized racism and self-hatred.
For African-Americans to think that being Black means you have to experience trauma in life and certain negative experiences is to believe what the White slave masters told our ancestors.
Slave masters told our ancestors that God meant for us to be the peasants of society and not the kings and queens that we are and were in Africa.
It is shameful that many of our own people seem to believe that foolishness centuries later.
And like Rhimes said, for African-Americans to perpetuate such stupidity about their own people is ignorant and tired.