Do you qualify to be black? – 10.01.2006.1

In a recent conversation I had with a friend, I was told that “no disrespect, but you’re not black.” Now this is a friend and I understood the context in which he was speaking, so I wasn’t upset. But it’s not the first time that I’ve been told this. Considering my Puerto Rican, Irish, Native American Indian and Taino Indian background, I agree that I’m not just an African American. But that isn’t what was meant. It was more in reference to the fact that I do not live in a thug lifestyle, speak proper English, and dress in suits more often than jeans.

But that got me thinking. What is it to be Black, or African American. I mean there is a huge economy based on just that thought. Music videos, rap songs, clothing lines, billions are spent world wide to capture an image that is “black” and “keeping it real”, whatever that means. But can that really be all there is to being black? Is the culture that superficial these days?

Mr. Juan Williams wrote an interesting opinion piece recently, Missing: A black voice for economic equality, that addressed the fact that many are asking about the next Dr. Martin Luther King. In that opinion he mentions the fact that 100 years ago prominent Black African Americans, such as Mr. Booker T. Washington, stated the key to improving the quality of life is self-help. This same message was repeated by Dr. King and Mr. Malcolm X.

Yet those messages have been mostly discarded. What else can be said when the chances of a young Black African American male being killed or jailed by 25 are greater than the chance to graduate high school. That the chance of a young Black African American woman having a child, out of wedlock, by 25 is higher than her chance of getting thru college. Obviously there are problems and they aren’t getting answered.

The insistence within the Black culture on living as thugs is a self-limiting expression. The fact that the youth of today want to be pimps and hoes, criminals by any other terms would make the fore-fathers spin in their graves. I cannot imagine that Dr. King or Malcolm X, envisioned a day were equality was considered the ability to father children without the attempt to take care of them, or the inability to communicate socially with others. In fact by the standards of today both of these men would not be considered black either.

At least in that respect I’m in good company. So what is being black today? Is a rapper black? Is a thug black? What about a stockbroker or a doctor, a sanitation worker or a teacher? Must any professional also be ill-spoken and brutish or risk being a sell-out? Can a person like other genres of music, or styles of dress and still be what they obviously are by birth.

Without opening my mouth, I am Black and Puerto Rican. I look in the mirror and I am just that, so why do some presume that I must also act, speak and look a certain way to confirm what I am. I understand when friends say I don’t match the popular norms associated with being African American. But why should anyone have to match a set of criteria? Is this an isolated thing? I’ve never heard anyone tell a White person that they aren’t White. The same with Asians. So why does this division exist?

This is what I think, what do you think?

About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

2 Comments on "Do you qualify to be black? – 10.01.2006.1"

  1. i think you would make a great teacher or professor…that is, if you could stand to be around the adolescents, i know i couldn’t. but i sure could have used a teacher like you in college, perhaps in sociology? philosophy even? either way, whether i agree or not, thanks for provoking the thought

  2. Thank you for the compliment. I think if I had the choice I’d be a professor. Far more serious students and less distraction from outside cultural factors. But I really don’t have the patience I think. Then again it could be worth it, given one good student.And I’d prefer philosophy. I enjoyed that greatly in college.

Thank you for lending your voice. We appreciate hearing what you have to say.

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