|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??