A few years ago, I was on a plane behind about three White men who were animatedly discussing their heritage. I didn’t catch the whole conversation because I was busy laying claim to the middle armrest and making sure that my bulky handbag actually fit neatly under the seat.
At any rate, one of the guys—who had ink black hair and a thick, curly hipster beard—was telling his mates that he was Irish, Italian, German and even some Native American. “Everything EXCEPT Black,” he said with an annoying emphasis that has remained with me (about 20 flights later) to this day.
Sit with that a moment as we consider why Bow Wow received a digital comeuppance on Twitter earlier today. The man otherwise known as Shad Moss roiled the Interwebs after a protracted debate with online followers who questioned his seemingly free promo of Drumpf hotels despite the fact that the owner of said hotels is a rather unapologetic, and divisive, force in American politics. While I might have respected (though not agreed with) Mr. Wow if he said he wanted to separate his stay from the realm of politics, he completely lost me (and a large chunk of the world) when he doubled down by saying he didn’t plan to vote any old way and didn’t relate to the civil rights movement because he is mixed.
Man i only believe what the eyes see. Im mixed. I dont know what my ancestors was doing. I only know what i see! https://t.co/OdDO2pvtBS
— Shad Moss(Bow Wow) (@smoss) July 27, 2016
**long, unblinking stare**
While most folk are busy letting the rapper-turned-TV host know that the closest he gets to “mixed” is being the son of light-skinned and dark-skinned parents, I have decided to skip over his questionable categorization of himself. Let’s just say he is somehow multiracial and we missed the memo. What on earth does that have to do with dismissing the civil rights struggle? And taking a step back: why are some of us so pressed to claim our other heritage instead of the one plainly on our visage?
The answer is a complicated one and brings me back to my earlier anecdote. The man on the plane was willing to admit to being mixed with anything, including a seahorse, but in no way did he want his peers to mistake him for being Black…not even by one particle. Sadly, I’ve come across this same attitude more often than I would care to admit from so-called friends who like me just fine, but make it crystal clear there’s not a chance in hell that they have even a modicum of melanation to their names.
And that’s understandable, though awful, given the treatment of Africans and African Americans in this nation. However, it is galling to see that this blind, and history-ignoring self hate, continues to flower among Black people. It is now as embedded as deeply in us as our genetics, whispering fiercely that anything “Black” is to be suppressed and hidden while anything “other” should be touted and celebrated. It’s the supposed “Indian” in your family that gives you slightly straighter hair. It’s the freckling on your face that proves you too can celebrate St. Patty’s Day. It’s the aspiration to be “exotic,” instead of regular old banal Black.
It’s clearly still a big factor for this semi-celebrity who has made money off of, and working with, fellow Black people and worked for BET. But instead of picking on and further disparaging Bow Wow for obvious ignorance, maybe we can show him, and the (too) many others like him, the error of his ways and a road out of racial perdition.
So here’s a shout out to Bow Wow and others who have considered the rainbow when being Black ain’t enuf; it would behoove you to make some connection to civil rights if you have not done so to date. It might be of help to you when police officers, without access to your 23andme report, pull your arse over for a racially motivated stop-and-frisk or, even more horrendously, put a gun barrel to your face over a minor traffic infraction. These regular ol’ Black experiences might educate you as to what to expect if you are say, innocently searching for Pokemon, and are mistaken for the second coming of Willie Horton. It might be of service to you, once you are shot for, I dunno, lying on the ground with your hands in the air pleading for your life. It could help you make sense of the madness that, in 2016, we still need a movement to plead with the country that takes our tax money and expects our allegiance that #BlackLivesMatter.
Being multiracial, White, Korean, Latin or Neapolitan-ice-cream-colored does not excuse you or anyone else from knowing a history that is just as much a part of the American narrative as the powdered wigs of the Founding Fathers, the futile struggle of the Confederate Army, or the names and abbreviations of the states that make up this nation. To wave that proud, unbowing part of our story off because of some imagined privilege doesn’t make you look fair, it makes you look like a fool.
Instead of wasting your already tired Twitter fingers fighting the mockery and many memes you have inspired, I would encourage you to instead log off for a while and take time to embrace and understand our collective history. Spend a few days reflecting on leaders like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and others who sacrificed so you could be free to jump on Snoop’s couch or get engaged to Erica Mena.
In the meantime, ask yourself why you wasted your considerable platform on an increasingly ignorant stance.
Kyra Kyles is the Vice President, Head of Digital Editorial aka she runs EBONY.COM and JETMag.com. You can get @ this digital diva on social media via thekylesfiles on Twitter or Facebook. Oh yeah, and feel free to send social media / tech etiquette questions and grievances to her via firstname.lastname@example.org. She just might tackle them for the next “Social Skills.”