* Fashion featured in this post is from boston-based Lit Boutique, styled by Danielle of A Chic Voyage, with images by boston-based photograpger, Brad of www.bradbahner.com.
I’m about piss some people off. I just cackled as I typed those words because I’m ready for your comments. Speaking of comments, can someone explain to me why y’all think I don’t moderate these comments? This isn’t a public forum. You know I trash the disrespectful ones, right? I mean I’m ready, but I’m not crazy. You know this isn’t a site with 80 millions editors, right? I’m here, all day, working. It’s me. Lisa. Hey! Welcome.
Okay, back to the matter at hand. Yesterday we published an article about Tyrese’s new wife. You can read the article HERE. When I hit the “Publish” button, however, I had no idea it would spark such a debate. The conversation taking place online is interesting, to say the least. If you don’t feel like reading the article (which you should), here’s the gist:
- Tyrese introduced the wife as his ‘Black queen.’
- She looks like she could be biracial so folks then inquired about her heritage.
- He gives an interview to TMZ where he confirms she’s Hispanic, Jamaican, and African American.
- Folks were like, okay, whatever.
- Then the wife responds to TMZ like, wait a minute, My dad is white.
- There are pictures of the wife, Samantha, with her family all over social media. And the mother is tan, and clearly “multi-racial” whereas the Dad is white.
- Whatever. We weren’t tripping, we just think it’s lame that Tyrese tried to erase his own wife’s European ancestry for reasons only he can explain.
But here’s what’s funny as hell. Black folks are steady in the comments talmbout, “we come in all shades.” If her mama is Jamaican, she’s black (Reports online, however, suggest that the Dad is the one that’s actually Jamaican, whereas Mom is the one of Ecuadorian and African American heritage…mind you Obama is African American and is 50% white, so we don’t actually know the mom’s racial makeup, but she’s Latina). “We need to stop this divisiveness,” they insisted. Folks, of course, ignored the fact that the woman herself doesn’t identify as black. Choosing instead to identify as Latina, not Afro-Latina, but Latina. Which is fine, but it also gives credence to the argument against Tyrese’s “Black Queen” hashtag. But let’s not split hairs over it.
Ultimately, for me, race is a mix of several things: 1. DNA, I would argue that a large percentage of your DNA would have to come from Africa, particularly Subsaharan Africa. 2. Your Phenotype. You have got to possess some observable Subsaharan African features. 3. Your experience in the world. But real talk? It’s mostly #2 and #3. And listen, I don’t make the rules, but let’s not pretend someone who is 80% black can walk around talking about “I’m white.”
So the question becomes, why then, are so many of us ready to include folks who neither claim black nor possess black features? What is it about true and “traditional” blackness that is so abhorrent that we would want to now redefine what it means? Why do we insist on this one drop rule? Who does it benefit? If I have 15% white DNA, and claimed white, without possessing any European features, most people would call me a self-hating coon, while others would insist that I be locked up in the closest psychiatric facility. But anybody who has a parent that is a quarter black, is black and has to claim black? Why?
The truth of the matter is, this insistence that blackness is any and everybody is straight up bullshit. Because you know what happens when we insist that anybody can be black? Folks in power start to fill the “black quota” with people who fit the European standard of beauty. Erasure is real, and being inclusive has never ever worked to the benefit of people who look like me. Instead, we are marginalized. The more we push hard to insist that the Paris Jacksons of the world are Black, the more women who look like me become too black, too nappy, our lips too big, our noses too wide.
And listen, no one is out to punish black people who both identify as black and possess some European features. I promise, I’m not trying to take away your blackness, as I know it’s a sore spot for some who often feel that they aren’t “black enough.” I hear you. But I do challenge you to put aside your hurt feelings for a moment, and allow yourself to acknowledge that blackness for you is different than blackness for me. And that as much as we would like to do away with the Paper Bag test, we simply can’t wish it away. Zendaya, for instance, is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t possess “traditional” black features, but stands firm in her blackness, owns her light skin privilege, even speaking openly about it in THIS interview.
Honestly, I don’t have the answers here, but I can say, that as a collective it’s okay to recognize and celebrate our differences and our similarities without insisting that we are all “the same.” Not any and every old body is welcome to the God damn cookout, and that’s okay, too!