Floyd Questions His Racial Identity

I am most certainly not attempting to insinuate that I possess psychic abilities. However, there was something that told me I would see Floyd on this hump day. Considering that it was, according to Houston standards, unseasonably cool around sixty degrees in mid-November, I decided that I would go down to the Miller Outdoor Theater, eat lunch, and get some writing done during the quiet and solitude that only ‘cold’ weather can arrange in a Southern metropolis.

As I stated, there was something that told me that my path would someway, somehow cross Floyd’s on this particular day. My intuition was correct as if on cue, Floyd’s shiny bald head came bouncing from the direction of the Houston Zoo.

Before reaching the area where I was consuming the last portions of a double meat hamburger and Stinky Fries from the Hub Cap Grill, Floyd shouted: “What’s happening Cap’n?” The few who had braved the Houston ‘cold’, turned to look at this man who was most certainly too loud in both his clothing and speech for the occasion.

I acknowledged Floyd’s presence with a simple nod that was neither overly welcoming nor overtly unwelcoming. One thing that I knew about myself was that ‘silence was golden’ particularly when writing. Life has taught me that time is not only fleeting but also unrecoverable. Once time expires, there is no recovering it. So I use it wisely.

Without any warning, Floyd stated that he had been looking through a few family photos when “it dawned on me that I am so much more than Black; and unlike these other fools, I’ve got the pictures to prove it. My great-great-great grandmother was an Indian and I am sure that you can tell that I have some white in my family tree as well. So why should I classify myself as Black?

I only smiled at Floyd, a tactic that I knew would disturb him to no end as it conveyed little of what I was truly thinking. As was typical of the majority of our debates, I felt as if I were playing chess while Floyd played a bad game of checkers. The vast majority of times that Floyd brought an issue up, he was most certainly standing alone in his assertions and observations. However, I must relate that on this particular issue, Floyd has plenty of company. If I had a dollar for every African-American who fervently believed that they were the descent of some Native American tribe, I would most certainly have all of my and several succeeding generations permanently solved. Honestly, this belief that they have Native American blood running through their blood is a bit of an obsession for many African-Americans, particularly for those with a “good grade” of hair.

Understandably, Floyd took my wry smile as a sign of skepticism. He knew very well my perspective on such matters; DNA studies had definitively proven that the traits that African-Americans were attributing to Native American blood were actually coming from a hodgepodge of European contributions. One thing that was certain about America was that one would have to search long and hard, far and wide to find a ‘pure breed.’

What’s that actor’s name that you wrote the piece about recently?

I responded with “Who? Taye Diggs?

Floyd slapped his knee as he related, “Yeah, that’s the one.

Floyd was alluding to a recent article I had written about The Best Man actor who was intentionally seeking to distance his child away from the stain that so many Americans, white, as well as Black, attach to the African-American existence. The article read as follows:

C’MON TAYE,

YOU BETTER TELL HIM BEFORE WHITE FOLK DO

When William Edward Burghardt DuBois stated in his magnum opus, The Souls of Black Folk that “the problem of the twentieth-century will be the problem of the color line” within that statement is an implied belief that problematic racial matters would only dog this nation for a century. Unfortunately, DuBois underestimated the staying power of racial animus within not only the United States but also planet Earth.

Make no mistake about it, the most recent scuttlebutt regarding American racial matters emanates from actor Taye Diggs who has stepped into an arena that, judging from his initial statements, he knows little about. This dust-up revolves around his bi-racial son, Walker, and the issue of racial identity.

According to Diggs, his son should have the right to choose which race he will identify with as he is both black and white. Via Instagram, Diggs related that “I am a proud black man. I want my son to grow up to be a proud black man if he so chooses. He has a mother who is white. He has every right to be just as proud of his mother’s ‘blood’ as well. Please wake up, people. It’s not that deep.” Apparently, Diggs fervently believes this foolishness as he recently told The Grio that “I think when you (call biracial people black), you risk disrespecting half of who you are.”

The Best Man Actor went further and related that “I don’t want my son to be in a situation where he calls himself black and everybody thinks he has a black mom and a black dad and then when they see he has a white mother, they’re like, ‘What’s going on? Are you ashamed?’”

I would love to say that I am flabbergasted at Diggs perspective; however, I am neither surprised nor amused by the reality that yet another notable African-American celebrity is wasting what could be a prominent public platform to represent his people solely because he has little to no comprehension of American racial matters. Frankly, I have come to expect such asinine thoughts from individuals such as Diggs who bask in what must be a blinding Hollywood spotlight that blocks the view of African-American celebrities regarding racial matters.

The central problem with Diggs’ contention is that none of us are allowed to choose our racial/ethnic identity in America. Although it may be soothing to Diggs’ Negro soul to think that his child will be the first African-American person to escape the large shadow of prejudice, discrimination, and racism; he will ultimately realize that not even money has been able to preclude what many terms the stain of blackness. This socially constructed concept, meaning Race, is much more complicated than someone like Diggs could ever imagine.

In the utopia that individuals such as Diggs have created in their minds, Race does not determine the life chances and opportunities that a person will have available. Unfortunately for the eternal optimists, their fantasies do not hold much weight in the real world.

During a recent trip to Ghana, I had the pleasure of meeting with several Ghanaian collegians attending the University of Ghana. I soon found that they had little comprehension that when African-Americans emphasized their ‘blackness’ that it was not a physical description rather a political declaration that reflected the historic solidarity that our ancestors had to exhibit for sheer survival.

What individuals such as Taye Diggs fail to comprehend is that the multiple racial identifications that our people have undergone — Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American, African-American — has frequently been a reaction to the pernicious white world supremacy that they have faced at every moment of their existence. Diggs should have enough sense to realize that not even his financial resources will be sufficient to protect his child from prejudiced people and discriminatory behavior.

Considering that it is best if we hear life-changing information from loved ones, there will come a time when Diggs should have a heart-to-heart talk with his son regarding racial matters. Failure to do so will leave him at the whim of a cruel world that has historically proven eager to denigrate Black children without the slightest provocation.  Nearly every African-American below the age of 50 has an interesting story regarding when and how they learned that they were Black, especially if that information came from an outsider. And if Taye Diggs is not careful, his child could very well grow up devoid of a racial identity that is needed to navigate the prejudice, discrimination, and racism that every Black man is bound to experience in America.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture

Considering what amounted to an opening statement in a makeshift debate, I already knew that Floyd found little problem with Taye Diggs’ decision to de-emphasize the racial identity of his child. Hell, I suspected that Floyd was seeking to do this for himself as a fifty-something-year-old. It always amazed me at how eager African-Americans are to add something, really anything, to their racial classification as if that would make them immune to the hellish existence that so many African-Americans experience in this nation. They fight with all of their might against their social classification of being Black. Apparently the heat of racial identity was so significant upon Tiger Woods that he went so far as to create an entirely new racial category that only he belonged to, Cablinasian — Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian, that only he belonged to. I mused to myself, only the Lord knows what tribe ‘Foolish Floyd’ was going to try and induct himself into.

Quite possibly the most annoying aspect of this matter, particularly as it applied to Floyd was that he was way too old to be entertaining such foolishness. In fact, his foolishness reminded me of a so-called movement started by notable African-American youth who attempted to use their fame and notoriety to care what amounted to as a new racial classification for themselves that could be called, “not quite that Black.” I was so disturbed by this awkward turn in American racial politics that I was forced to editorialize about it.

Out of the Mouth of Babes:

The Identity Crisis of Young African-Americans

One of the most important things that any of us are forced to answer is the question of who am I? It is a question that reflects so much about each of us from our historical background, ancestry, heritage, upbringing, socialization, and where we project ourselves in the future. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rash of notable young African-Americans, or Blacks, who have publicly renounced their African-American status.

The alluded to individuals include a roster of notable African-Americans: Zoe Saldana, Keyshia “I’m biracial” Coles, Tiger “Cablinasian” Woods, Devyn Adbullah, and Raven Symone, to name a few.

It appears that these Negroes are obsessed with distancing themselves from the Race that they were born into at all costs, including sounding like a complete idiot before the entire world. The Face model Devyn Adbullah went on national television and related to Wendy Williams, “I don’t really consider myself as a black girl model. I know what my ethnicity is, but I’m fair-skinned and I feel like I have an international look”. A shocked Naomi Campbell, who also serves as a mentor to this young lady responded with the following litany, “What the f*ck does she mean? That’s a disgrace! She’s a Black girl.”

Considering the daily attacks that African-Americans are under around the globe, Devyn should recognize that not even her so-called ‘international look’ will be sufficient in preventing unprovoked racial attacks in America, Europe, the Caribbean, or South America.

Ms. Adbullah is not alone in her pontificating about Race matters, particularly her non-desire to be included with the masses of African-Americans. Former Cosby Show star Raven-Symone has emerged as the latest to miserably fail at ingratiating herself to whites by distancing herself from a disbelieving African-American community. In a cutesy attempt at being profound during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Symone relates, “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American…I’m a colorless person”.

As if such statements were not daunting enough, rapper Childish Gambino took to the airwaves and related during a recent interview on the Breakfast Club that he wanted to transcend Race.  Apparently, Childish Gambino believes that his commercial success as a rapper will somehow make him, to use the concept of Raven-Symone, ‘a colorless person’ no longer hindered by the stigma of Race. Songstress Keyshia Coles also joined in on this most unfortunate discussion of Race by hesitating to accept an invitation to perform at the Black Girls Rock event because she was not certain that she was Black. Coles relates that she is bi-racial, not Black.

Although it would be easy to simply disagree with such statements, I actually feel that such statements are particularly revealing on several levels. The most revealing aspects are what it reveals regarding (a) the lack of historical context that these young people exist within and (b) their gross lack of understanding of the genesis of Race in America. Each of these young people appear to be screaming, hollering, begging, and pleading with the Black or African-American community to let them go, not to claim them, they are throwing a childish temper tantrum and screaming, in our face nonetheless, I am not, nor do I desire, to be one of you. Unbeknownst to them, it is not our community that either created or over-emphasized the issue of Race in America. We have had to collectively react and scramble for our own survival when faced with the social construct of Race.

Unbeknownst to these feeble-minded babies — Raven-Symone, Childish Gambino, Devyn Adbullah, Zoe Saldana, and Keyshia Coles — W.E.B. Du Bois’ construct that the problem of the twentieth-century is the color line holds weight even in the new millennium. Considering the repeated murder of African-Americans in this nation’s streets, it is darn near suicidal for someone to think that they can navigate this pesky Race issue alone. However, I am certain from your public statements that you will not take a Black man’s word for it, so please go and ask the nearest random white person what you are, and I am quite sure that they will not hesitate to point you blackwards.

James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture

I was absolutely certain that Floyd had read that particular editorial, however, he consciously chose to ignore it in what amounted to a desperate attempt to escape one of the most difficult location’s a human could find himself on the planet Earth; being Black in America. It was this never-ending stress and strain of existing in a nation that considers racial exploitation essential to its prosperity and longevity that has caused African-Americans to seek an escape from the looming omnipresent shadow that racism has cast. This reality of race in America is one that often caused African-Americans to blame themselves, and their kind, for a social status whose construction that they had very little to do with.

Why is it that everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, has to deal with race. If we simply stopped focusing so much on race and racism, it would simply go away.

I had heard this argument so many times before that it nearly drove me insane. The disgust that I was certain was now written across my face failed to dissuade Floyd from continuing to run toward an intellectual dead end.

I have a very good friend named Tom, he’s a white fella. And I’ll tell you what, when I see him, I only see a person, a human being, and not a color. Furthermore, when he looks at me, he doesn’t see a Black person. He only sees a person. Not a black man, but a person.

I recognized Floyd’s argument as an antiquated argument that called for people to ignore racial constructs with the hope that they would eventually dissipate. This argument was so pervasive among racial apologists that I did not have to give my response much thought.

Floyd, what would happen if we simply ignored Cancer? Would it magically go away? No it wouldn’t, millions of people would die as a result of us ignoring it.

Floyd looked at me with a clueless look that conveyed the reality that he had no comprehension of what I was alluding to, so I continued.

Furthermore, you are a Black man in America. No matter how much you want to deny this reality, that’s what you are. Floyd you have to realize that white people invented this thing called race during colonial times for one reason and only one reason, it provided them their greatest opportunity to gain a monopoly upon this nation’s resources and guarantee a permanent labor source of stolen Africans. So you can throw out the notion that your multi-racial heritage matters in this land. You can go out and get a full head-dress and a pair of moccasins and it would not change your status one bit. Put simply, these self-imposed alterations to your racial heritage and identity will not save you from dealing with the three-headed monster of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.

A flustered Floyd glared at me as if he were on the verge of making some earth shattering statement; so I was a bit disappointed when he simply stated, “You think that you are so smart” and rose from the picnic table I had eaten my lunch and headed back toward the direction from whence had had initially appeared.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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