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What is black?

13.10.07 Saturday
01:37 pm - What is black? Previous Entry Share Next Entry
In all of the excitement and hype of Hispanic Awareness Year, our friends of darker skin colors have been largely neglected. In an effort to bring attention to the diversity of flavors that minorities come in, I'd like to address an important issue: what is black?

Recently, NSBE Magazine voted Microsoft the best place for black engineers to work. The cover of the magazine shows two (undoubtebly) black boxers with an audience of (allegedly) black corporate-types in the background. Now, as a black American* I find this wildly offensive.

Up front, this magazine promotes the stereotypical association of blacks as athletes, and particularly boxers, which detracts from other socially equalizing images such as the black politician, the black diplomat, or the black actor (yes, these jobs now all come in black).

Additionally, and more importantly, the group of (allegedly) black corporate-types are much lighter than the boxers - in some cases, so much so that it's only clear that they're black because of the context. This supports two other stereotypes that really get under my skin.

First, successful black people are light skinned. Everyone knows that. Look at Michael Jackson and Halle Berry. Clearly, the darker skinned people belong in the ring, where as the light skin people belong in the office.

Second, that One Drop of African blood makes you black. Essentially, white means 100% white; everything else is black. I'm roughly 10% Native American, but no one would identify my as a red skin. Admittedly, stereotypically black traits are often genetically dominant (e.g., black hair) but how is it that someone who is a majority non-African be considered black? (Let's disregard for a minute that blacks aren't exclusive to Africans).

To help illustrate this, I've developed a Scientifically Foolproof measure of Blackness, and applied it to the photos on this page. Note that the Authentic Black® (source) is 66% black. The boxers are around 50%. The corporate engineers? 40% - a full 20% less black than the Authentic Black®.

Kola Boof's extremely racially offensive and politically incorrect article "The PROOF: Authentic Blackness" pretty much sums up my opinion on the matter. She observes the trend, particularly in America, for beauty and success amongst blacks (particularly black women) to be associated with lighter and lighter skin. She argues that most African Americans are not Authentic Blacks and, in fact, that their actions and breeding patterns show a resentment of their African heritage. She argues that a shared heritage, cultural background or cause does not make you black - only blood. "We are not so worthless...that just anybody can be us." (I recommend reading the full article; it's full of memorable quotes such as referencing the BET as "white supremacist minstrel network.. (aka 'the mulatto follies')".

* OK, so I'm not a black American. In fact, according to my Scientifically Foolproof measure of blackness, I'm only 9%. I did make it all the way through a broadcast of the Tavis Smiley show once, though. Do you think it'd give me a chance with this hottie??

Current Friend-Of Count: 322.

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lormagins [13.10.07::10:35]
I double-dog dare you to link this post to the good people at! :D
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amai_unmei [13.10.07::11:10]
Well, shoot. If you wanted me to get naked for you, all you had to do was say so!

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tyrven [13.10.07::11:13]
Oh my God. I forgot that I had Authentic Black friends who read my blog. I guess the cat is out of the bag; if I'd thought about it, I'd have put this in my Good White Christians filter :|.

Speaking of getting naked for me, you're coming to my birthday party next Saturday, right?
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fiercekitty [13.10.07::11:32]
I don't understand your numbering system in the second picture. To me, 3 is WAY less black than 2.

Also, lol.
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tyrven [14.10.07::12:48]
He has some innate blackness that I don't pretend to understand. I tested him three times because I was convinced he was the whitest guy on the page.

Actually, the problem is with how I measure. I am using the inverse of the "B" value from HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness). Brightness, however, doesn't reflect blackness accurately; for example, true red has a brightness of 100% even though it's darker than white. Since his skin is relatively ash-colored he is visually brighter, but it has no impact on the scale.

But don't tell anyone, because the accuracy of this post depends on the Scientific Foolproof of my Black-o-meter.
mysocalledmind [14.10.07::05:46]
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tyrven [14.10.07::03:46]
Yeah, that's exactly what I should have done. I realized my mistake about 25% through but Photoshop was being racist (it kept crashing when I tried to view the color data for any brown skin tones) so I just crashed forward with the easy approach.
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tyrven [14.10.07::12:50]
Which, as an aside, reminds me of this optical illusion.
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serorobele [14.10.07::07:01]
Yeah, ok, I'm slightly drunk but that's just mean. I don't get it. I even went so far as to print it out and it's true, they ARE the same color. Heh? I hate you.
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tyrven [14.10.07::03:52]
I know! It totally weirds me out. The first time I saw it I opened it in Photoshop and eyedropped the colors. Still unconvinced, I cut the squares out and pasted them next to eachother. It's pretty fascinating.
wishesforfishes [14.10.07::04:38]
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sarevilo [14.10.07::05:01]
It wouldn't be the first time. And, of course, it'd probably be someone who only read the first paragraph.
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tacofordinner [14.10.07::05:20]
I can't believe that is the real cover of the magazine.
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phunbee [14.10.07::06:29]
Got your comment on myspace. I want to go to your party but if there is a cat I can't go. Will there be a cat at the house where the party will be held?
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tyrven [14.10.07::03:51]
There will be :|. Two, in fact. They usually hide away during parties, but I assume the dander in the air will bother you. I always forget that I have friends with cat allergies. Technically, I'm alergic to cats too, although my allergy is mild and my cats are part Devon Rex and so the combination allows me to get away with it - but if I go to friends houses with certain breeds of cats I get really puffy and swollen. Ew.
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serorobele [14.10.07::07:03]
In many countries in the world, lighter skin is more desirable, yes? Like, if you have lighter skin you obviously have more money/resources so you don't have to be out in the fields or whatever all day or something.
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tyrven [14.10.07::03:55]
That's sort of like fingernails in feudal China. Long fingernails were a sign of wealth because they meant you didn't need to work. Or how weight used to represent wealth, because it meant you could afford enough food to store some away in your belly. It's interesting what we associate with status.
This entry reminds me of this picture - (Anonymous) [14.10.07::08:53]

Jer is the 2nd from the right.

Originally from this blog:

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Re: This entry reminds me of this picture - tyrven [14.10.07::09:03]
Hah, nice. It's totally true, too. It's probably the only computer programmer stereotype I fit into, but it's spot on.