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'Black enough' is not a thing

OPINION

  • WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Performer Wayne Brady performs at The Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball II at Harman Center for the Arts on January 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Performer Wayne Brady performs at The Hip-Hop… (Jemal Countess / Getty Images )
May 19, 2013|By Anthony Roberts, @antthewriter | For RedEye

I listen to rock music, but I'm far more into classical. "Seinfeld" is one of my favorite shows, ever. I play tennis every summer, and I'm a Trekkie. The question is: Am I black enough?

Should that be the question? Of course not.

While appearing on Huffington Post Live last week, Wayne Brady was asked about being used aspop culture's standard for not being black enough when Bill Maher ignorantly referred to President Obama as not being a "real" black man. It's an old but ongoing story, and clearly it still stings Brady. His reaction: "That's bull[bleep]."

While Maher's statement seems ludicrous at best, it does raise an issue that is in the minds of many but spoken by only a few.

Part of me gets it. It's embedded in us to make judgments, not necessarily with malicious intent but in an attempt to better understand the world around us. It does, however, become dangerous when these judgments and assumptions become widely accepted as a form of truth.

As an HBO talk show host, Maher has a certain level of credibility that adds validity to his statements, whether they are true or false. As opinion becomes the new fact, we have to be careful of what type of messages we are putting out there to the public.

Take Brady, for example. He is an Emmy Award-winning performer and a dark-skinned black man who couldn't escape his "blackness" even if he tried, yet he still has to endure ridicule about not being enough of what others think he should be.

To measure one's "blackness," or any other way of categorizing a person based on superficial criteria, is ridiculous. Angelina Jolie recently announced that she underwent a double mastectomy. Does that make her something other than a "real" woman?

As a writer, I am a proponent of free speech and believe we are all entitled to our opinions. But having the luxury of expressing an opinion does not relieve us from being responsible. Brady is not a caricature, not a stereotype and, thus, not necessarily understood by a lot of people who may have had a limited experience with people of color (the key word there being "people").

As people, we all are unique and add our own contributions to the cultural melting pot in which we live. There is no concrete definition of what it means to be black, to be white, to be Asian or any other category that you may recognize. Understanding this is crucial to understanding each other.

While turning to Maher for cultural insight probably is not the way to go, we do have to find ways to break these barriers that exist between us.

So, I ask again: Am I black enough? Hopefully by this point the question seems as absurd to you as it does to me. The next time you find yourself questioning if someone is enough of what you think he or she should be, do us all a favor. Don't.

Anthony Roberts is a RedEye special contributor.

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