The premiere of the TV show ‘Blackish’ got me to thinking about blackness.
First of all, who is black?
In America blackness is NOT decided by the color of your skin.
Blackness is determined by the “one-drop rule”; meaning a single drop of black blood makes you black.
By the way, that rule only applies to blacks or African Americans.
No other country, not one, abides by that rule.
It’s unique to America.
So then the question becomes, what is black?
The definition, terms and conditions for that in America are a bit more nebulous.
Some, mostly black people, say blackness is determined by how you act, or how you were raised, or what food you eat or certain other social predilections you might have like listening to R & B or Hip Hop or eating certain foods.
Others, mostly black people, say black is determined by political affiliation, or how you speak or how “down you are.”
Down with the cause.
Down with the struggle.
Man, that’s a lot of rules and criteria to live with.
It’s called “The Black Box and it is nothing more than the limitations we put on blackness, the formed beliefs about each other based in ignorance, stereotypes and fear.
Back in 2011, in my book titled ‘Transparent’ this is some of what I wrote about the black box phenomenon:
“Sometimes the black box means giving up too much in the name of being “cool’ or “down.” It can mean saying “no” to education and “yes” to stereotypical attitudes and ideas that ultimately lead to nowhere. It can mean closed-mindedness to new ideas and diverse experiences. Sometimes it means adopting the attitude of only that which is “black” is worthwhile or good.”
“I’m not comfortable with feeling that, in order to maintain my authenticity as a Black American man, I must speak a certain way, choose certain pursuits and reject others.
I don’t like limiting myself, or anyone else for that matter.
Especially as a direct descendant of slaves, being told which box I have to operate in just doesn’t sit well with me.
That’s why I applauded the idea of a sitcom like ‘Blackish’ which, through humor, seeks to expose the absurdity of the black box and how that limited thinking breeds stagnation and immobility.
I hope it has a similar effect on breaking black stereotypes as Will and Grace did with gay ones.
I watched the premiere and I loved it.
Unlike the Cosby’s, who just happened to be black, the Johnson’s are black on purpose.
And it is refreshing to see a new, modern black family on primetime television not bogged by stereotypes.