I usually don’t post anything political, but the below kinda sorta is, so feel free to skip it if the political opinions of some dude on the internet aren’t of interest to you.
I recently read about Dr. Ben Carson’s weekend comments on Barack Obama’s “blackness” and his upbringing. He essentially said it’s a “stretch” to call Barack Obama the first African-American president because he was “raised white.” Today, Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents District 49 in CA (north west San Diego county) went on CNN and called Dr. Carson’s statements “technically correct.” This was so profoundly upsetting to me, I had to take a few moments to compose myself.
Over the years I’ve been accused of sounding “white” more than a few times because I’m well spoken, and it is really, REALLY insulting. It’s like they assume that because my skin is tinted I’m supposed to sound like some parody of a black man raised in the ghetto, or that I have no business being educated. But since when does race imply education levels, or an ability to form grammatically correct sentences? Have we still not gotten past the idiotic notions that the color of our skin somehow influences our capacity to learn and speak? If a white kid raised in a low income area comes out speaking proper English, he sounds “educated”. However, if anyone with a tint to their skin or different shaped eyes can form clear sentences, they sound “white”? How is that ok?
No race gets to stake a claim to being educated, being raised in nice neighborhoods, being able to speak clearly using proper English, just like no race can claim ignorance, poverty, or poor English language skills. The fact my mother is white and that I’m educated doesn’t mean I was “raised white”. The fact I spent large chunks of my life living in mostly white neighborhoods, or going to a predominantly white school, or that I have white friends doesn’t mean I’m more “white” than my biracial peers. The twists and turns my life took as I was growing up may have defined me as a person, but it didn’t magically change the color of my skin.
I’ve had to put up with racism my entire life because of my outward appearance… I’ve had girls tell me their parents didn’t want them seeing a black guy, I’ve had countless slurs hurled at me, I’ve been ignored in bars and restaurants, I’ve seen women tighten their grip on their purses, I’ve even been profiled by police. In none of these instances did my upbringing come up before I was unfairly judged. At no time did someone ask if I was biracial, or if I lived in a white neighborhood, or if my school was predominantly white before casting stones. I was seen as different, inferior, and ignorant people treated me as such.
For Dr. Carson and Rep. Issa to imply that one’s upbringing somehow defines their race is insulting, and not just to me, but to countless others who don’t fit into some racial stereotype our skin tone apparently requires us fall into. It brings back the racist views that because a person’s skin is tinted, they are expected to have been raised a certain way, and act a certain way, lest they be ridiculed for being “phony”, and it’s upsetting that in this day and age there’s still a belief that the color of our skin, not the content of our character, defines us.
The irony that such a blindingly stupid, racist notion comes from a black man who proclaims that he would be the first true “African-American” President, is just icing on this disgusting cake.