Leonard Pitts Jr.: How black is black enough?

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: January 16, 2013
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I suddenly find myself concerned about my blackness.

It had never occurred to me to worry about it before. Then came the incident last month on ESPN's “First Take” program that initially got commentator Rob Parker suspended and then, last week, fired outright. It seems Parker, who is black, analyzed what he saw as the insufficient blackness of Robert Griffin III, rookie quarterback for the Washington, D.C., football team that is named for a racial slur.

Having returned their team to relevance for the first time since the Clinton era, RG3, as he is known, can do no wrong in the eyes of Slurs fans. But Parker, saying that the young man's fiancee is (gasp!) white and that he himself is rumored to be — cover the children's ears — a Republican, found him lacking in the area of authentic blackness. “My question,” he said, “which is just a straight, honest question: is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother? He's not really … OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really like the guy you really want to hang out with …”

That explosion you hear is the sound of my mind, blown. I'm left second-guessing my own blackness.

I mean, I listen to Bruce Springsteen, for crying out loud! There's even a Dixie Chicks album on my iPod. And I read books sometimes, man — even when no one's making me do it. Some of them are thick as bricks. Some aren't even about African-American themes.

It gets worse. I have no natural rhythm, no criminal record and can correctly pronounce the word “ask.” I don't curse nearly as much as I ought to. Oh, and I went and married my baby mama.

Obviously, my blackness is on life support.

Many of us have been taught that it is demeaning and delimiting when someone presumes to say who you are, how you will behave, what you think, what you like, and how intelligent you are, from the color of your skin. We have been taught that such behavior abridges the other person's individuality.



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