What is black? More importantly, who defines what black is? That’s an interesting question. It becomes an even more interesting question when one is biracial. When one is half black, they must exercise caution. They must carefully toe the line, because not doing so will result in the loss of their black card in the court of public perception. It has been said that two most racist people are white men and black women. I will attest that black women are the most judgmental.
Often times, biracial people are made to choose to between two the halves of themselves. To say that they are biracial, despite the truth in the statement, is seen as an assault on all things black. However, the funny thing about being biracial is that you are black, or seen as black, by black people, especially black women, when it benefits them and biracial when it doesn’t.
Let’s look at few examples. Look at the fiasco that Jessie Williams caused. Remember his speech at the BET Awards? You know the one where he praised black women? That started his meteoric rise to prominence in the black community. He could do no wrong by black women. He was saying how much he loved them, and he had a black wife. He was choosing black women in public and in private. There’s a saying that goes “people love heroes, but enjoy watching them fall even more.” How the mighty have fallen. Fast forward to today. Jessie Williams in some respects could be considered the most hated man in black America to black women. What did he do to earn public enemy number one status as it pertains to black women? He traded in his rather average, plane Jane black wife for a hot, white woman. As a result, he is no longer black in their eyes. You see, he was useful as long as he was saying the right things. The minute he was no longer useful, he was discarded and his black card sanctimoniously taken away, leaving him to languish is racial exile.
Tiger Woods is another great example. When he was rising to fame and doing things in the world of golf, a sport that very few black people play professionally, much less excel, he was the toast of town. He was winning PGA Tour events on a level not seen since Jack Nicklaus. He was blazing a trail and setting a new standard of excellence in a sport dominated by white men. In doing so, he amassed a fortune from PGA Tour winnings, endorsements, etc. that rivaled other super elite blacks such as Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. Now, there will be those that say that he never considered himself black to begin with. I’ll grant you that, but it further speaks to my point. Even though he may not have seen himself as black, he was still considered black by the black community. So, what precipitated his downfall? What caused him to be cast out of black society? What else? He had the audacity to take his hard earned money and share it with a white woman. You see, he collectively spurned all black women by choosing to marry a white woman. In doing so, he lost the right to be black. Again, once he outlived his usefulness, he was seen as expendable. Now, these aren’t but two out of many possible examples, but they prove my point. That point is that no matter the era, the rules of being black when you’re biracial remain the same. As long as you are doing something that black people, particularly black women can take credit for; you will be embraced and seen as one of their own. The minute you deviate from said bath, you will no longer be seen as black.
The loss of black privilege isn’t unique to biracial men. You see this one of the few instances where black women are equal opportunity employers. Let me elaborate. In 2014 Clutch, published an article on their website titled, Are Biracial Women Erasing Black Women On Screen? In the article, the writer laments the fact so many roles for black women are going to biracial women, and of course the reason given for this black men and hip hop. In my opinion that is ludicrous, not to mention that it runs counter to what a large consortium of black women say about black men. That is to say that we have no power and we don’t build anything. After all, how can a group of men with no power have so much influence that now major Hollywood movies are casting parts based on our preferences, right? Granted, the article is three years old, but its message still holds true today. You see black women love biracial women in Hollywood like Halle Berry when she was seen as the standard of beauty. Alicia Keys falls into that same category. In fact a lot of the “black” women that sisters hold in such high regard are in fact biracial.
Here’s a quick rundown:
Beyonce (Black and Creole)
Gabrielle Union (Black and Filipino)
Misty Copeland (Black and White)
Tia and Tamera Mowry (Black and White)
Kerri Higson (Black and White)
Zendaya (Black and White)
Gabrielle Union (Black and White)
Paula Patton (Black and White)
Rashida Jones (Black and White)
Tracee Ellis Ross (Black and Jewish)
Now, this is list by no means complete or all encompassing. However, it does give a good cross section of biracial women across various fields that black women claim as their own. Yet, in the same breath those same black women will bemoan the fact that acting roles and other opportunities are mostly given to biracial women. So, here again what you have is biracial women being useful to black women when their achievements and public perceptions can be used to further their cause, and discarded when it doesn’t. You see they believe that the opportunities and by extension, the adulation showed be reserved for the “real” black women, not the part timers. In the meantime though, they have no problem claiming them as their own until the moment they can usurp them. My advice to biracial brothers and sisters is to just be you. In life, if and for how long people love you will never be your decision.