By Jarod Joseph
From as far back as I can remember I’ve always been my mother’s “BLACK” son. Call it simple or even cheap – but it’s what it has always been and I wouldn’t have it any other way.I don’t mean “black son” in the sense that I was comparable to a handbag or treated as a novelty growing up – I mean in the sense that when the topic of race came up in my mother’s presence without me being there that she was always proud of me, whoever I was to everyone else was totally irrelevant. I was simply her son. When it came down to defending her child’s existence in this cold world I feel she held no punches. My white mother is the smartest person I’ve come across in my life and someone that I rarely question. And I admire the fact that she wasn’t naive enough to think that by showing her blonde hair and green eyed smile to some bigot while walking me through the mall, that I’d miraculously appear more Aryan to him and he’d spare me of his hatred. Sure, I’m half white. There’s no ignoring the science – hiding the facts would mean denying my mother, who I love dearly. But I grew up with a raw, non-sugar-coated perspective that left room for very few surprises when it came to discrimination. The fact that I can convincingly pass as a “light skinned black man” and would pretty much have to sit someone down to explain how I also have white blood, speaks volumes. Although I’ve felt the shun on occasion from the black race I so claim – you know – the feeling of not being “black enough” -It could never match the fact that the word “nigger” is generalized to the point that not even the creaminess of my complexion or the clarification by correction of me saying “Hey, wait a minute; I’m actually not FULL nigger” Is safe from its powerful wrath. I learned that at a young age. Oddly enough, I think my mother was a bigger advocate for this than I am.I recall a time when we were outside our house getting into our car (I was around 8 years) when I looked up at a man walking by us and in passing he remarked “Lady, tell your nigger kid not to stare”. Now, there are many places to go with this one – but I’d rather get to the point – I remember us stopping right then and there – with my mother telling me to get in the car; she and I (clueless, unwilling & reluctantly young of course) followed this man to his front doorstop. And for the days to come, my mom and I were there for 2 days straight to picket outside his house holding a sign that read
“THE GUY IN 7303 CALLS 8 YEAR OLD CHILDREN NIGGERS”.
Whoa. I was so embarrassed – but looking back on it, I can now honestly say that whatever racial issue or hurt I felt growing up probably hit my mother just as hard, if not harder. But then again, with every one of those stories, I could follow it up with one of total embracement from white folks and dare I say, colorblind acceptance. Not everyone is racist, I know this. I grew up in predominately white areas and households and there was never a shortage of love whenever I would seek it and perhaps it’s soft of me to let society label me one thing but I feel as if I had no other choice.I don’t like to revert back to referencing times of slavery – because we (as in everybody) have come so far and it’s almost too easy But “way back when”, the only way I could possibly be the complexion that I am todaywould be by way of rape and the only difference between me and the “real black” folks would be that I was serving food & drinks inside a slave master’s home instead of working outside in the fields. Black was black. Let’s face it, just before most of our parents were born, we couldn’t drink from the same water fountains or even sit in the same region as one another in most places of the U.S. And I’m not talking about black, brown & white folks being deprived the right of living in racial harmony – I’m talking about White & Other. This means, whether you looked like Don Cheadle or Terrence Howard – you weren’t drinking from that “Whites Only” water fountain.I didn’t want this to come of sounding like a history lesson but I feel a few key facts are needed to justify my thought process.Huey P. Newton (co-founder of the Black Panther party), Malcolm-X (civil rights activist), Rosa Parks (the mother of the civil rights movement) were all of mixed-race, but fought for BLACK rights. Sure, it’s a sign of the times, and where we are socially as a culture plays a major role. I’m glad to be a part of this day & age and wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re at a very good place, the best it’s ever been. Hell, when getting technical about it I smile at the irony of the President being both black and white, and almost equally admired by both communities. But I can’t help but feel as if since his election as the next President, there’s this new aroma in the air and I personally feel like the perception of my people has forever been altered – which is a good thing – but I question the motive. It’s as if the gun shots have stopped and I’ve earned clearance to “come out of my cave” and I’m being told to “come on out, you’re with us now”. While I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s what we’re going to need for growth but I can’t help asking “but… why now?” I’m sure that Mrs. Parks could’ve used this type of support from the white community that she was ‘technically’ a part of, when she merely wanted to sit in that seat.
(Granted, that was 1955. But ethnicity and skin color doesn’t change just because mentality does. I personally don’t have time to waste waiting for people to come around to their senses.)
My point is – it can’t be used conveniently. Barack Obama can’t be the “BLACK” Senator of Illinois and suddenly become the “BI-RACIAL” President of the United States. Maybe it helped on-the-fence voters sleep at night by reminding themselves he’s not “that black”. The biggest worry people have in regards to President-Elect Barack Obama, is whether or not he’ll be assassinated. Now, I don’t know about you but I personally don’t think the brain dead folks that would attempt to put together this elaborate scheme would be doing it because they didn’t like the suit that he wore in his last interview when he promised his country HOPE & CHANGE. And by looking at the accused gunmen from the first assassination attempt, they didn’t seem like they really cared how white Barack Hussein Obama’s mother was. If Barack Obama is claimable then you’ll need to accept the Huey Newton’s and the Malcolm-X’s and the thousands of mixed brothers currently locked up in the prison system and take the good with the bad. Not just when a brother is the picture perfect version of a black man that you’ve been waiting for. Every time his being “The First African-American President” is downplayed and his “blackness” re-evaluated, I feel as if that person is telling me who I am. And that’s no one’s right. There are more black’s that are most likely unaware that they are part white through multigenerational mixing then there is of pure African blood. Black in North-America is a monochromatic pallet of shades. None of us have black skin, let’s be real. Being black is a cultural identification and most of us don’t have time to sit the world down and breakdown what EXACTLY is in our background. The fact that Obama has gone on the record and stated in his books that he self identifies/categorizes himself a BLACK man (while never denying his white side) should be all but enough to put an end to the debate. The ”one drop rule” (it’s true) that the United States so dearly loves to use can’t now suddenly be thrown out just because there’s a socially accepted black man with a very high end desk job that just came to town. All I keep thinking about is the fight for civil rights and how when that battle was going on, the lightness of your skin didn’t spare you from suffering the same abuse and segregation that was happening to brothers that were dark skinned. But now there’s a line drawn in the sand between “BLACK” & “BLACK-ISH”. There is a BLACK man and his family living in the White House. Get over it. History was made.This was Dr. King’s dream, may no one take that from him or those who fought the good fight for “CHANGE”.
– Jarod Joseph
(One day my kids will now be able to turn on the TV and see the man that looks like them who became the leader of the free-world, knowing they too can literally do whatever they set their minds to. I refuse to let anyone correct them with bullshit racial-technicalities.)
Note: I’m not forcing anyone that’s bi-racial to self-indentify as black, just letting it be known why most of us do.