Sunday, August 14, 2005

"Drew, I'm blacker than you are."

This column by my girl Donna Britt has me thinking: what is black? What does that mean? What does it mean to say you're not "black enough?"

Recenly, KLC recalled, in front of some very influential people in the industry, that when we were in college, I sort of "tested" her blackness. She was right. I did. For that I apologize.

There have been many times in my life where my blackness was "tested."There was my simple-ass uncle who nicknamed me White Boy when I was a kid (going so far as to have a tshirt made with WHITE BOY printed on the front) because I was born very light skinned. There was the simple mf white guy in college at the student newspaper who thought he was down as all get out, going so far as to tell me once: "Drew, I'm blacker than you are."

Keep in mind that this was one of those white boys who wore baggy jeans and his cap with a tilt and listened to wack-ass East Coast rap and thought that made him down. As I told him once: "If I took you into the neighborhood where I grew up, you'd get your ass kicked."

But as Donna Britt's piece pointed out, we as black folks are really self-limiting ourselves in our experiences. We don't do certain things because that's not something "black folks do."

When I lived in Colorado - yes, some black folks do live out there - I went hiking a few times and snow shoeing once and that was it. I wasn't into the "outdoorsy" life because, well, I just didn't care. I didn't think black folks got into all that stuff. So I ignored it.

Now? I miss Colorado's natural beauty, the stunning mountains, the rolling hills, the trees. Let me tell you: heaven on earth is Colorado in the fall when the leaves are changing. Amazing. But I didn't take advantage of all of that, and ignored it.

Do I regret leaving Colorado? No. But I wished that I'd have taken advantage of those things when I was there.

I long ago accepted certain truths about myself: I can't play basketball. I don't like chitterlings. Rap music is getting on my nerves. I've read all of William Shakespears stuff and think most of it is brilliant. I like Sting. I bought Jagged Little Pill. I think OJ is guilty. Black folks gave R Kelley a free pass.

None of those things make me any less black.

So, have you ever been considered or called "less black" by someone?
Or "less white"?
Or "less womanly"?
Or "less gay"?
Or "less Asian"?
Or "less Hispanic"?


J said...

great topic.

i think we as black people believe the only way we can remain black is if we hold on to certain things, some of them trifling.

i'll admit i was a very limited black person coming out of college. but through college and living in different cities, i learned to appreciate different things. i still remember how some black people thought we were crazy because we road-tripped to savannah just because we read about it in a book. but, that's anotha story.

to me, being black means being so proud to be black that you wouldn't have wanted to be born any other way. it means wanting to be a positive example for your culture. it means respecting the sacrificing and gains that came before you. that's it.

liking aerosmith and a good chardonnay isn't going to change that. yet, black folks think it's outside trappings -- do you like mike jones? -- is what defines us.

we let mainstream culture box us in, and get us to thinking blackness is comic view, not voting and loving greens. it's not.

unfortunately, we are on the 400th year or so of blackness meaning something negative, and so we cater to those images rather than positive ones.

by the way -- i don't like chitterlings either. however i compensate by loving the hell out of fried chicken and greens. and fried pork chops.

*Madosi said...

yes i feel you ... i have been told that i am not black enough, that i am too gay or becoming too gay, etc etc


I think you are naturally who you are. What is acting Black? What is acting White? What is acting Gay?

Give me a damn break!

Drew said...

It's all bullshit. Not only do we box ourselves in, but we let society box us in, too.

I love the fact that I was born black. As I've said before, being born black gives me that extra layer of understanding and insight that I doubt someone born white has. Don't misunderstand: there are some insightful, cool white folks out there. But even the most "with it" white person is lacking in the depth of knowledge and understanding that i have, just for the simple reason of how I was born.

That's why that clown's comments in college was so hilarious. He thought he was so cool, and that I wasn't, yet, he couldn't hang five mintues with a group of black folks.

And Jemele' "not voting" comment was interesting. There is, I think, and anti-Americanism built into most black folks. And that's understandable: America hasn't always been kind to us.

Yet, as the same time, as I said before, we built the infrastructure of the country, and MUST have a sense of ownership about it. Sure, racism still exists. But that doesn't stop me from getting the chills every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner (yep, it's true. Shhh. Don't tell anyone).

I'm very critical of this country and proud at the same time. It's possible. Truse me.