The other day I had to catch myself. I was watching a morning news show and the host, who happens to be Black, mentioned that she rides horses. In my head I said, “Man she ain’t Black.” What Black person do you know that rides horses? Where did this thought come from? Why did I feel this way? A slight sense of anger came over me as I assessed my thoughts. I became even more enraged as I thought about the times that my Blackness had come under assault by those closest to me. I know that many of you are thinking, “Who would dare question MarcQus’ Blackness? He talks about Black people, pride, and culture all the time.” Well, I’ll tell you, people that are ignorant of the fact that all people no matter what race, ethnicity, or gender come in all forms. This is why I was angry at my initial thought. To say that Black people do not ride horses is a historical fallacy (Google: Buffalo soldiers, Black cowboys, Black farmers, etc.).
This whole notion of Blackness or lack thereof is embedded in my and many Black people’s psyche. We are mindful of our Blackness no matter what we do, where we are, and who we are with–especially in the company of those who are not Black. It is a beautiful thing when you can just “be” versus having to “become” in the presence of those that do not accept you.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about being Afrocentric or Black centric when it comes to your identity. I am talking about specific behaviors that are deemed as “not Black enough” or “White.”
After spending our entire lives in Chicago, my siblings and I moved to DeKalb. My father had taken a new job at Northern Illinois University (See Autobiography). We would often return to Chicago to be with family on weekends, holidays, and whatever breaks we received from school. After spending some years there, unbeknownst to us, our speech patterns changed. Many of our family members did not care or express any concern to us. There were some that told us we “sounded White” or “proper.” So speaking proper English is only reserved for White people? It didn’t upset me to be called White. It was the fact that I was being called something that I was not.
Here is another example. During my junior year of college, I returned home to hang out with family and friends. Upon my arrival, one of my cousins noticed what I was wearing. She jokingly called me Carlton. I didn’t see the humor in this. To be called “a Carlton” was insulting to say the least. I walked it away and brushed it off. Inside I was angry, not at myself for wearing the clothes I was wearing, but at my cousin for not accepting me for becoming a better man. Later on in life I would find out that it was jealousy.
These are just two examples. There are many things that most Black people would not consider as “Black enough” or “acting White.”
Running – I am not talking about sprinting. I am talking about going for long runs, being a long-distance runner, or being a member of the cross-country team. This is absurd. Tune to Olympics 2012.
Horseback riding – I grew up in Chicago and the only horses I saw were on TV. Even when I did see them in real life I never saw Black people riding them. I need to do more research here but I can tell you that it was not always this way. I still suggest that you research Buffalo soldiers, Black cowboys, and Black farmers.
Swimming – How many Black people do you know that can swim? This one is not meant to be humorous. Knowing how to swim can save lives. Take your kids to get lessons, better yet, take lessons with them.
Mountain climbing, hiking, or camping – Learning to survive outdoors is a great life skill. Being sedentary doesn’t make you healthier. Get up and explore God’s green earth.
Golf – Tiger Woods has given much attention to golf, but I am not sure if many Black people are picking up the sport or even watching it. Historically, this sport has been the most exclusive in terms of race and gender. This discrimination is what fueled Earl Woods to “create” Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. It is often said that many business deals are made on the golf course. Tiger Woods has earned over 110 million dollars during his golf career.
Tennis – Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and James Blake represent just about all of the history of Black people in tennis. Serena Williams has earned nearly 36 million dollars during her tennis career.
Hockey – I barely watch the sport unless the Blackhawks are in the playoffs. There are a handful of brothers in the sport. Dustin Byfuglien, a brother, of the Winnipeg Jets earns 5 million dollars a year as a professional hockey player.
NASCAR – Brad Dougherty has something to do with the sport. My only other exposure is Bernie Mac being a fan in the movie Guess Who?. NASCAR drivers can earn up to 30 million dollars a year! For example Jeff Gordon earned 25 million dollars in one year and has earned 117 million during his racing career.
Soccer – I do not see a lot of Black Americans playing soccer. Soccer is the most popular sport worldwide, so you know money is involved. Twenty-three year old Freddy Adu is making $600,000/yr.
I could have included baseball; we barely play that sport any more either. There are millions of dollars in all of these sports, but we limit ourselves to basketball and football. I am not promoting that we train our kids up to be professional athletes. I am saying that we should expose them to more than two sports.
To be fair, some of these activities have more to do with resources and access. If you can’t access a golf course, then how can you golf? With that being said, your inability to access a certain sport or activity does not give you license to demean or ridicule those that do. There are lots of low-cost or free activities through your local park district, YMCA, or church.
CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY
If dressing with creases in my khakis and a nice polo shirt is considered “acting White” then call me Zack Morris. If speaking proper English is considered “acting White”, then call me Opie Taylor. If being smart and getting good grades is considered “acting White”, then call me Alex Keaton. Who needs to assess their values?
Call me what you want. I don’t have to answer to it. Those names do not change who I am. I know my history. I know my culture. I love being Black. I love my African ancestry. I know who I am and where I am going. This I will teach to my children and they will teach to their children. We are not bound by the limitations placed on us by the New or Old Jim Crow, or the New or Old Negro. Ours is a history of endless possibilities, endless growth. If you constrain the roots on a tree it will die. If you release the constraints and allow the tree to grow, it will grow strong and sturdy and produce much fruit. Plant wisely.