Let some Black folks tell it, there are certain people who are far above any kind of reproach, and even a whiff of fault-finding on your part will land you in the quagmire of a cuss-out: 1). Jesus, 2). Barack Obama, 3). Oprah, 4). Dr. King and 5). Beyoncé.

OK, so the last one might be a bit of a stretch, but there’s no denying that she’s got a very hearty, very loving, very vocal following who don’t take no mess when it comes to their Queen Bey love.

So let me first review some basic facts: Beyoncé is a singular pop cultural force. Beyoncé is stunningly gorgeous. But inasmuch as I applaud her rise from girl group lead singer (and some really unfortunate bedazzled outfits) to take her place in music icon infamy, Beyoncé got some issues with being Black, y’all.

First she was accused of giving the ol’ okie doke by allowing I don’t know how many pictures to be lightened, making her caramel complexion appear two shades paler than it actually is. That controversy has cropped up from photo shoots and album covers, but honestly, accidental whitewashing can only happen but so often before you have to raise an eyebrow and wonder how many times someone’s skin color can—oops!—be fortuitously Photoshopped down a shade or two. At the root of her latest dust-up: those darn L’Oreal True Match commercials that list her as “African American, French, and Native American.” Sigh. Why B, why?

The first time I saw it was also coincidentally the first time I ever used the rewind feature on my TV. (I don’t know. It just seems unnatural to be able to run back live programming.) I’ve got a ton of pet peeves—rusty, washed-up hustlers who try to lay their fossilized mack down on much younger bloggers, drivers who double park and mysteriously disappear into thin air like their two-way flashers somehow pardon their rudeness. But ranking up there on the list are people who try to make themselves more exotic by claiming to be a quarter-this and half-that and others who are so determined to run from being Black, they get all tangled and tripped up in race, ethnicity and nationality (for the record, a similar commercial featuring Jennifer Lopez only listed her as 100% Latina).

First of all, “French” is not a race. Or an ethnicity. Or anything that would require you to match a shade of makeup to it. France is a nation; therefore, “French” is a nationality, and there are about seven major ethnic groups in that country. Ergo, saying you’re “French” is just as generic as saying you’re “American” when you’re talking about a racial or ethnic context. (Not all countries work that way, though.) Her dad is Black, so I guess he makes up the African-American part. Her mother is Creole, a blend of Frech, African, Spanish and Native American settlers. But the word I do believe she was searching for was “White.”
But it’s not just her. For a lot of people, there seems to be a disconnect for the sake of not being just Black or Black at all. Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with my hairdresser, who is Dominican, and mentioned something in passing about being Black. She stopped styling, grasping a big ol’ chunk of my hair in mid-flat iron, and said rather crisply, “I’m not Black. I’m Dominican.”

I didn’t think it necessary to challenge her at that particular point in time. But let the record show that she is, somewhere along the line descended directly from somebody in Africa. Her hair texture, her skin color, her facial features all tell the story. I don’t know what’s so wrong with claiming and embracing Blackness anyway. I don’t see why more people don’t do it. It’s great.

The concepts of race and ethnicity are, for the most part, derived more from culture and society and history and even personal beliefs than biological findings. But the fact of that matter is they do exist. Denying them because you’re trying to start some kind of revolution is one thing. Denying them because you can’t fully embrace your heritage—especially if that heritage happens to come Africa—or reaching way, way, wayyyy back in your lineage to highlight some other part of your makeup when you know full well your most recent non-Black relative was seven generations removed is another. Race and ethnicity aren’t going anywhere. They’ll continue to define us in the foreseeable future because, well, that’s just the way things are. Just look at Beyoncé.

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  • Maurice

    I am Cherokee Indian, Irish, French Creole, Puerto Rican and African American. These are my cultural and DNA markers. These are what I have studied and been influenced by. At the same time I tell my children whose mother is full blooded Filipino, that if a cop pulls them over they will be recognized as BLACK. Even if you can tell they are mixed they will still be called black. The sad part about all of this is that black is an American concept. America since conception has played White as good and Black as evil. These are not even colors. You do not find black or white in the rainbow or color spectrum as they are only negative and positive energies. Because America has become so globally dominate black has become synonymous with anything that is not Latino, White or Asian. Just as white became anything that was not Latin, Asian or White etc. … etc… etc… I consider this a disservice to the cultures in the world. It is a fact that we can no longer be recognized solely because of our nationality. In America alone that is a concept that would denote that all Americans are one people. This is foreign because we hybrid everything (African American, Italian American, Japanese American…) It can historically be recognized that Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans are African slaves blended with Europeans and Spanish – but they are not black. They are their own culture. They have been raised and influenced by their own country. It is insane that in order to globalize a term and put people on one track that we have to say all people are black. This is crazy. It is better to say that all black people and/or people of color have African ancestry. (Personally I believe that all people have African ancestry)The media has brain washed us on many levels. We went from continent titles, country titles, tribal titles, city titles and of late color titles. By DNA I am many things, but I am a brown skin American with various immediate ancestries of which I am proud. I’m not trying to be lighter or darker. Content of character not the color of my skin. I relate to the sold and stolen, then enslaved Negro, Colored, African –American, Black culture as my main influence. Still do not do me a disservice by telling me I must consolidate and declare black rejecting all the things that have made me special and beautiful. I hate the title because of the historical negative connotations, but I am black, proud to be black. If you ask me my makeup I will still declare Cherokee Indian, Irish, French Creole, Puerto Rican and African American. My only consolidation will be I am AMERICAN, from AMERICAN! Content of character not the color of my skin. Get over the titles.

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  • Jaslene

    When I saw that commercial I was thinking child please. If that’s what she wants to claim then let her. She is Black and is always going to be black nothing else. I liked Jennifer Lopez because she let us know straight up she was 100% Puerto Rican.

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    • girlwonder614

      Beyonce can try n hide sum other mixture of race amid her African American heritage, if she wants to, but when it all boils down, to racists, she’ll just be another black chick w/ money… ( I omitted the racial slur I initially put in, b/c I don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way)

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    • anon25

      Isn’t that the problem the author is touching on? To my understanding, claiming you are Puerto Rican is the same as saying that you are American. It’s not a race.

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    • http://www.DCAfterWork.com AlesiaMichelle

      Amen! My friend and I were side-eyeing this commercial like crazy. It is good to know we weren’t the only ones. I have 2 great grandmothers that were Native American and White… No Black at all, but they married Black men. Guess what?! I’m Black I don’t claim anything but Black. Why? All Black people have some White and Native American in them. It is what makes us African-American. Don’t forget that there were Native American slaves too. And we all know the the overseers and slave masters couldn’t keep their hands off their slave women…

      Black doesn’t just mean African decent and African decent alone…

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    • d_nicegirl

      I agree. I was slightly disappointed when I saw her spot. I was even more disappointed when I saw JLo’s. Why did Beyonce feel that she had try to ration away her Blackness? Sad that with all the money in the world and acclaim, a person can still maintain such core self hatred.

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    • Bosslady

      I didn’t like this advert. As someone already noted J Lo’s was even more bizarre as Latina’s are probably the most racially mixed people on this planet, so 100% Puerto Rican means nothing with regards to here race, but whatever…

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    • JaeBee

      “100% Puerto Rican means nothing with regards to here race, but whatever…”

      You’re right. “100% Puerto Rican” means nothing when you have Puerto Ricans that can be a light as JLo to as dark as Evelyn Lozada. I’d like to see Ms. Lozada rocking the “True Match” shade for “100% Puerto Ricans” that Jennifer was sporting. Now THAT will be entertaining television!

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  • http://blackonpurpose.blogspot.com/ gryph

    i can’t wait for the first clutchette to shriek that that this ad isn’t about ‘race’.

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  • apple

    um french can be noted in creole heritage because thats where it comes from , sure it make be different kind of the same flavor of vanilla but just like japanese and korean is apart of different countries of the same asia.. its still must be included because in Louisiana creole heritage –it was the french(and for some spanish,not in my family though) along with the native and black blood… which is what makes ACTUAL CREOLE..otherwise it wouldn’t be creole it would be something else. However in my family even though we are Creole, we know that we are black(, we have never denied that but we still acknowledge our culture/traditions of the past and present…

    as far as your hairdresser, now i saw Black in Latin America and one Dominican reporter/speaker? said that they are in serious self denial and completely disown their black heritage while honoring their Spanish hertiage, with the spanish didn’t even stay in DR but went back to their own countries.. but i have had a Dominican (darker than me) shout in my face “oh you mad cause you black” … so thats a horse of a different color (no pun)

    but i dont see why she couldn’t include it, however i dont know why the jennifer lopez version didnt say all of her mixes instead of “100% puerto rican”

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  • HarlemB

    Well done. I too pushed the rewind button. I understand it is to pay great respect to both sides of her Heritage but…. We are know what it is. This issue isnt going anywhere fast and I love telling folks, esp those from spanish speaking countries, embrace you Latino culture however, you are a spanish speaking african. And for others, mixed with the natives, but also very much of african decent :) join us!

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