Over the weekend I was catching up on some news and ended up on The Root’s website browsing through articles. John McWhorter’s provocatively titled article, “Let’s Stop Being Angry at Biracial People” instantly caught my attention.
As I read I anticipated McWhorter delving into the history of the one-drop rule or presenting a new idea to the trite topic that has been discussed ad nauseum. Instead, the accusatory tone coupled with a number of generalizations, left me floored. And by the article’s end I wondered, why does this problem continue to be left at the doorstep of Blacks as if we are marching in the streets with fluorescent signs that read, “Hey, biracial people, you have to identify as Black?”
McWhorter’s piece recounts his childhood experience with one of his biracial classmates considered black because that’s the way Whites would see him. Later McWhorter reflected on how his biracial godchildren, who have a White mother and Black father, would later have to identify as Black. Obviously this issue hits close to home for him. According to McWhorter’s presumptions, the line of reasoning Black people use when claiming biracials are Black, is that they will be treated as such by a White cop. Really? Then he tosses in Obama as an example and the “uproar” Black folks were in when Tiger Woods told the world he was “Cablasian.” Much of the article relies on his personal observations, the assumption that Black people even care about this issue and conclusions based on his assumptions. Talk about failed logic.
A standard line on why degree and mixture are not supposed to matter for black-white hybrid folk is that the cops will always treat you as black. Even President Obama trotted out this line in defending his classification of himself as black rather than biracial…
One is that for black people to get angry at people like Woods for calling themselves something other than black means enforcing the old “one drop” rule as vigilantly as whites used to do…
The second reason is even sadder. The idea that if, say, a Troy doesn’t “know what color he is,” then he is to be giggled about at best and jumped on at worst is about shame. Why, after all, does someone who refuses to identify as black make some black people angry?
That anger comes from insult — specifically, a sense that Troy must think he’s better than they are. After all, why couldn’t they just allow that Troy has had a different life from their?
That tongue clucking and anger at the Tiger Woodses among us is about insecurity, a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. To really know that black is beautiful means feeling not the slightest mental pinprick when café au lait people refuse to call themselves only “black.”
Although I understand McWhorter’s efforts, as much as I understand it is his right to write an Op-ed piece, for the life of me, I can’t understand why this is being presented to Black people as if it’s our issue. Nor do I know that enough Black people care about how someone self-identifies. I certainly don’t know anyone who does.
Black people were not the inventors of racism in this country; they were (and are) the victims of it. When will these articles be dropped off at the doorsteps of Whites? After all, it was our White founding fathers that created the “one drop rule” in the first place. Please let’s stop pretending there are not large numbers of White people who would be petrified if their son or daughter brought home a biracial baby. And in some cases, possibly disown their child and grandchild. I rarely hear of these stories happening in Black families. News flash- countless Blacks have biracial people in their family, and we don’t go stomping and pouting demanding they accept their “Blackness.”
The biracial issue is a lot less simplistic than it is conveyed in McWhorter’s article. I think the concern, if any, for some Blacks, lies not in how biracial people choose to identify, but the hope that they know the history of their Black side. Also, love and value it. And that it is not seen as inferior to their White half.
When conversations about Mariah Carey arose, who in the past allegedly went out of her way to claim she was White, the annoyance was that Mariah wanted to be Black when it was convenient in terms of her music career. The uproar wasn’t just that she didn’t say she was Black. Yes, there are Black people who will consider anyone whose skin is pigmented, including biracials, Black. And there are those who will insist biracial people consider themselves Black and only Black. But not enough for this to be considered a “Black issue.”
Further, please tell me what White person is looking at Tiger Woods and considering him white, Asian or biracial? The only reason White people like to point out the President is biracial is because, well, he’s the gotdamn President. It’s another way to take away the pride we feel in having the first Black President by saying, “Well really he’s biracial.”
I don’t mind the discourse around some of the more serious issues biracial people face in this country. But I certainly am tired of the accusations as if Black people en masse hate biracial people, give them hell and demand them to own their Blackness. If I never read another article similar to McWhorter’s, it would be too soon.