By Rhonda E. Frost
In honor of closing out Black History Month 2019, I write this letter for anyone in the Black community who perpetuates colorism. This is to anyone who said, “Kamala Harris isn’t even Black, she’s bi-racial so she doesn’t count”, to the many who say “Barack Obama isn’t Black, his mother is white so…”, and to the critics who deemed Meghan Markel, the Duchess of Sussex, not Black “because she claims she is biracial”. This is for any person in the Black community who still disparages their own, based on race. To the person sitting behind a computer screen on social media, to the brother or sister at the office, nightclub, college, church or those on the block, pushing the “skin tone determines Blackness” narrative-you need to stop. You sound racist.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…”; many of you love to quote this during Black History Month and you recite it often during the rest of the year. We say we want equality more than anything. And I believe we do. Yet here we are in 2019, doing to our own people, what the people who constructed race have always done to us; dividing and conquering based on color. Too many of you judge your “light-skinned” brothers and sisters, like some racist white people, judge Black people in general. What makes your judgement and tomfoolery different from theirs?
I am bi-racial. My mother is white, blond hair and green eyes, white. My father is Black. I wrote about it in a previous blog post entitled, “I Am Not Racist, I’m Woke”. I grew up Black. My neighborhood-Black. My struggle-Black. My self-esteem-Black. My money-Black. My anger-Black. My families’ interaction with the police-Black. Growing up, I saw none of the “white privilege” of my white side.
I do not know how they did it where you are from; but in 1963, the year I was born, they were not allowing sperm, eggs and embryos to select the race of their parents before inception. Our parents did not consult us before they consummated their relationship and decided to have sex without a condom, therefore opening up the chance for us to be here, in all of our light-skinned-edness. Neither were we allowed to check off what color of brown we wanted from the skin tone hue wish list. We did not have options on hair texture, hair length, eye color, or body type(big booty or none at all). Nope, none of that was offered to us-no more than it was offered to the direct descendants of Africa or the whitest white person from Europe. DNA is a mother*cker! We are all at its mercy. We have no say in our genetics. Be still for a minute and marinate on that.
So who gets to define Blackness? Who is the authority on what office biracial people are worthy to run for as a Black woman or man (first)? Who are you to tell me what injustice I am allowed to be angry about, what I should protest, or talk about in race relations? In the words of Shannon Luders-Manuel, “Blackness cannot be taken away from us. Biraciality cannot be taken away from us. They exist as tangibly as our skin, made from Europe and Africa. We are the colonizer and the colonized. We are the oppressor and the oppressed. We bleed for our brothers and sisters. We carry on our backs the weight of what one half of us did to the other. We slip easily into white spheres, taking notes and taking names while nodding our European heads.” We didn’t ask for this, we inherited it and we own it.
Word has it that Malcolm X had White DNA, Frederick Douglass had White DNA, Bob Marley, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Du Bois, and a host of other important people came to us with their mixed race and made a difference in the world. These biracial people fought for justice and freedom on behalf of all Black people. I wonder if their fellow brothers and sisters, yelled out to them, that they weren’t Black enough to represent, or did they simply appreciate their fight for equality, while seeing them as Black and equal?
For the sake of learning, read what “biracial” means here. To be clear, most people are not a pure race. Most folk are of mixed race heritage with the DNA from another race swirling around in their blood; just ask Henry Louis Gates from Finding Your Roots. By the way, when someone says, “I am bi-racial” it does not mean they aren’t claiming their blackness, well unless you are talking Tiger Woods, but for the rest of us, it simply means we are claiming both of our parents; the White and the Black one. Does that make us not Black? Should we only tell folk about the Black parent to keep our “Black card”? I am asking for all the mixed race people in the world.
In 2019, it is stunning to hear my own people judging within the Black community because of skin tone. We have enough to fight or be defensive about. Aren’t you tired of this? Too many are still carrying anger, jealousy and hurt because of skin tone; and it shows in our talk, our views and the way we treat each other. I have found that the more unhappy a person is in their own skin, the more they look outside themselves to attack or demoralize others. Happy people, with high self-esteem and in pursuit of a life of meaning and progress, just don’t normally have time for it. We have to recognize this in ourselves.
If your hope is that you not be judged because of race and that white people not devalue your worth because of your skin tone-you should want the same for your own people. If the Klan, a neo-Nazi, a Republican wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, or any other racist sees you or me walking down the street, we will both be viewed the same. They see us as Black. I suggest we do the same and embrace each other. Divided we fall, but together we can conquer the world, or at least conquer ignorance and move forward to a higher intellectual, financial and emotional ground. All of our Black is beautiful and worthy.
The day we start believing this, is the day we will stop with the colorism nonsense.