Real Black, Fake Black, Too Black For Action

Fox News founder and CEO Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter praising Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson. (Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

So Rupert Murdoch, CEO and Fox News founder — wonderful phrase to have on the old résumé — sent out the following tweet this week: “Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide? And much else.”

Okay, so, diversity just officially got more complicated. Now it’s not just a problem that you’re black, but apparently you can be fake black, partially black, not black enough, and at the end of the day — none of them are appealing.

What exactly does real black mean anyway? Is it familiar stereotype, perhaps the neck and eye rolling, loud-talking hood rat or the welfare recipient complete with greasy headscarf we see so often portrayed on the news? Is real black the rather inarticulate, but athletically divine sportsman we see leaping about on a court or in a soda or gym shoe commercial? If it is, cool. But does that mean real black can’t be a mixed, charismatic, well educated, professional and, let’s not forget, articulate medium-brown-skinned brother who loves his wife and two daughters? Or, say, a journalist who believes in workplace equality and isn’t afraid to write about it while wearing large sparkling gold hoop earrings and sundry leopard patterns? That’s me, by the way, in case you missed it.

But, here’s the thing. What people think black means in this country — actually in this world — is a warped, extremely narrow parody of the truth. Black, funnily enough, comes in all sorts of colors, temperaments, educational levels and talents. And it’s not just the Rupert Murdochs of the world who are seemingly unaware of this complexity. Black people are just as likely to put each other in an ill-fitting box as any other race.

If I had a dollar for every time a black person told me, ‘you act white’ — like white people have a monopoly on grammatically correct English — or a white person expressed surprise when they meet me in person — having only talked to me on the phone and corresponded via email, they were somehow under a different perception — only to compliment me for doing my job as though they’re surprised but pleased that I can, I’d be rich. Like, traveling nine months out of the year, writing romance novels on a deserted, tropical, powder-fine, white sand beach rich.

Black is not a singular construct, one conveniently low class or ill spoken, musically inclined or gifted in sports. Black, like any other dimension of difference whether it’s cultural, religious or anything else, is nuanced depending on the individual.

It’s like I said in “Shades of Gray,” there is no one way to frame or perceive a person’s race or gender.

And, Ben Carson? I hope you don’t let Murdoch’s backhanded compliment/tweet go to your head. Remember, according to a Salon piece I read, Murdoch tweeted last March “that while he’s a “[w]onderful character, up from Detroit ghetto, [he] sadly seems political naif.”