Monday, February 25, 2008

Flint Urban League Asks ‘Are You Black Enough?’

The Flint Journal reported that a biracial employee, Jamie Kendall, was asked if she was “Black enough” to lead the organization. Apparently, the Flint Urban League didn’t like Kendall’s answer because, though seemingly qualified based on her previous hard work for the UL, she did not get the job. Kendall is suing-- as she should be.

Sisterdoc only has the newspaper report to go on, but it seems Kendall’s Blackness was challenged based on her light skin color. This is “colorism.” You’ve heard the sayings, ‘light is right, if black get back.’ You remember ‘paper bag tests.’ You may have been one of the Sisters in 2007 offered free admission to a Detroit club—but only if you possessed light skin. You’ll notice that advertising tends to propagate such colorist divisions.

In an earlier post, Sisterdoc worked to remind readers that an investment in Blackness is not tied to skin color. With skin color off the table, a particularly challenging question is exposed: how might we explore the level of someone’s identification with, and investment in, Blackness? Scholars call such identifications and investments “identity politics.” Identity politics means claiming membership in a group as a political point of departure. This means that being Black enough is NOT about fixed, biological, set characteristics like skin color. Identity politics IS about investing in what matters to a group socially, politically, and materially.

Clearly their skin shades don’t tell the tale, but Ward Connerly, Dorothy Height, Al Sharpton, Tiger Woods, Clarence Thomas, and Lani Guinier each represent a vast range of relationships to Blackness. And clearly we shouldn’t presume that if you are dark enough, you are Black enough.

This isn’t identity politics. This is just plain wrong.

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