On Being Black Enough: An Open Letter to My Brothers and Sisters Who Perpetuate Colorism

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 it’s 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. It would seem that 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.

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Sending Light and Love

by Rhonda E. Frost

I woke-up needing affirmations, positive energy and love. I awoke feeling unsettled.  There’s an uneasiness and evil in the air right now in this country. I can’t seem to shake the heaviness. Surely many of you feel it as well. I feel like Marvin Gaye when he sings “What’s Going On?”.  I need intervention. I need an angel, like Alicia sings about, right here.

Have you seen the headlines lately? Are you watching the world like I am? Do you see what is happening in politics, in the NFL, in your hometown? Have you heard the voicemail message left on African American studies professor Jason Nichols phone just 2 days ago, in October 2017? If not, check out his Facebook page and take a listen, it will make you angry, it will make your heart hurt and it might make you cry. Every single day, there’s something more sinister, more divisive and more detached being said and done. The world feels whack right now! The leader of this country is insane! And racists are showing their true colors, sheets removed.

Having said that. I know there is still good out there. I know that love, a desire to heal and understand one another, is still the cure. And I know that we can stop allowing the negative energy to control our thoughts and words at any given time. But in order to allow peace and the good thoughts in, we have to step back, step back away from the darkness, and choose light.

So today, I’ve decided not to be consumed by the evil, stupidity, fear and hate. Instead of participating in the usual consumption of horrific news tragedies, or witnessing more of  the mind-boggling ignorance and disconnect in the highest office in the land, for just a little while, in my mind, I want to go back to the days when the world seemed less crazy-(like the past 8 years). I want to talk to my grandpa or grandma like the Judd’s mentioned in their great song, or have a long talk with my mama, and hear words of wisdom, hope and encouragement.

There is no better way to redirect negative energy and thoughts, than to look outward, and look for the good in others and in our lives.  So that’s what I am going to do. I simply want to acknowledge aka give a “shout-out” to people who make a difference. A shift in focus, if you will.

Special shouts out to our brave men and women in the armed forces who fight for our freedom every single day, to all first responders who spend their days and nights helping people and saving lives and to the self-less people like Chef Jose Andreas, who show up out of nowhere during tragedies, and do more than their fair share of giving, helping and feeding souls.

Shouts out to the parents who get up each morning and get their children ready for school before heading off to work, get home from work and go to their child’s sporting events or recitals, and then do homework, cook, clean and  somehow manage everything each day, before going to sleep and 6 hours later, wake up and do it again. You are hero’s and shero’s!

Shouts out to all the men who hold down their women and children, those who “cover” them, provide and protect. And to the men who show up daily, those who are in their children’s lives and provide for them, even when the relationship didn’t work. Men who say “I love you” and show it. And to all of the men who are emotionally available, vulnerable and real. The ones who love hard and openly,  the world needs more of you. You are appreciated.

Shouts out to women everywhere who are making it happen. Those who are rebuilding their lives after setbacks. Women who are starting or finishing college, starting businesses, taking care of children alone, trailblazing in their careers, lifting up other women, speaking positivity into the world, getting healthy, and finding ways to believe despite setbacks and heartbreak. Women who fight for human rights and are making a difference. We are better together. I see you and salute you!

Shouts out to those who wake up everyday fighting the good fight in this unpredictable world we are all living in-those struggling to feel safe, struggling to find their footing, feel connected and find purpose. I am right there with you. Keep praying, keep waking up, and keep believing that better is on the way. Don’t give up! As long as you keep getting up and keep taking steps forward, you will make it. We can do this!

And finally, shouts out to the brave truth tellers on race, the “woke” people in the world, the peace makers and those who want “justice for all”, those who know why Colin kneels and aren’t afraid to say it.  Those who use their platform daily to call out injustice, risking it all. And those who understand we all bleed red, and our hearts feel pain the same.

Though the world feels out of control, let’s take some time each day to find the good. There are good people, there are stories of redemption, forgiveness, success and hope that we can hold onto for inspiration. If each of us will take a little time each day to be kind, to show love, to lift someone else up, stop hate messages, and do something good for each other, we can make headway into this dark heavy cloud and maybe even break all the way through. Let’s get through these turbulent times holding on to each other.

As a country we’ve come a long way, but we have a long, long way to go. In 2017, I am clear that we aren’t as close to MLK’s dream as we had hoped(thanks Trump and Alt Right), but we can get there, together. As a people we must do better.  We can’t let the evil, incompetent ones lead us down the dark, divisive path and keep us there. We are better than this.

No, individually we can’t save the world. But we each can do something. Just do your part. Share facts and wisdom. Thank someone for what they do. Listen to someone else’s story. Control what you can. And once you’ve done all you can…pray, mediate and be still. And vote! Register to vote. Stay involved(I had to say it)!

It’s got to get better. We won’t be in this chaotic place always. The sun will come out tomorrow. I just have to believe it will.