Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is bi-racial, but a segment of society—Black folks mostly —have taken to social media and elsewhere to draw a false equivalency to “Blackness” and the hue of a person’s skin color.
“As long as people can be judged by the color of their skin, the problem is not solved.”—Oprah Winfrey
It’s easy for Black folks to go into, “Preach sister, preach!” mode when they see these words.
More times than not, these words are applicable to how Black and Brown folks are seen and treated by non-Black and Brown folks when it comes to employment, education, banking, etc.
But what happens when it’s us Black folks making such judgments based on how much or how little melanin someone has, and using that as a basis for their “Blackness?”
We’ve seen this play out recently with the Miami Dolphins hiring Mike McDaniel as their new head coach.
McDaniel, who is bi-racial, has come under an undeserved storm of social media criticism centered around the hue of his skin not being dark enough for some to be considered Black, which for some reason makes him being touted as a Black head coach in the NFL a fraudulent claim.
For those who believe the hiring of McDaniel by the Miami Dolphins is the league’s way of skirting around the edict to increase diversity in the head coaching ranks, I’m suspicious too.
Especially with the lawsuit recently filed by former Miami head coach Brian Flores that alleges, among other things, discriminatory practices and behavior by the Dolphins.
But what’s happening with McDaniel is bigger than the NFL’s diversity initiatives.
The biggest issue surrounding McDaniel’s hiring has been an issue in the Black community for centuries—the divide that exists between light and dark-skinned people of color.
Society has been too quick to judge the pain and strife that these two layers of Blackness have dealt with, often pitting one’s problems against the others as if one’s pain goes deeper than the other.
I can’t tell you the depths of McDaniel’s story when it comes to being a person of color.
Neither can you. And that’s the point.
None of us are qualified to speak on what his level of “Blackness” is, let alone pass judgment on its authenticity.
Just the idea of judging someone’s Blackness is fraught with problems, shining an unnecessary light on a flawed construct that does more harm than help to Black people.
I’ve spent a good deal of time the past few days reaching out to folks who I know are bi-racial, to get their thoughts on what’s happening with McDaniel.
This led to some of them sharing with me some painful moments of reflection, growing up having their Blackness ridiculed, questioned, often feeling as though they were caught between two worlds with neither fully accepting of them.
I don’t know the depths of McDaniel’s experience of being Black, or for that matter if it was even an issue at all while growing up.
If it wasn’t before, it will be now going forward.
How he handles the increased questions about his Blackness, remains to be seen.
But the fact that this is even a talking point, speaks to the state of the NFL and professional sports as a whole.
It is painfully obvious that the NFL has an issue with diversity among its leadership, regardless of how much money they pour into an assortment of initiatives that on the surface at least, seem well-intentioned.
But too often, Black coaches are subjected to an unfair system that doesn’t allow them to compete for openings on a level playing field akin to their white counterparts, often subjected to being mistreated, misled and held to an unrealistic standard.
And that makes the backlash from Black folks when it comes to McDaniel, even worse.
The hiring of a Black head coach in the NFL should be a time to rejoice and be celebrated in the Black community. We know all too well how these opportunities are so few and far between when it comes to people of color.
Yet, as you canvas social media, it’s clear that there’s a significant segment of the population that are struggling to embrace the reality that this latest Black head coach in the NFL doesn’t, in the eyes of some, look the part.
And that’s where the two-faced, double-talk begins.
You can’t complain about the lack of diversity hires in the NFL coaching ranks out of one side of your mouth, while the other is taking to social media to complain that the new head coach in Miami, who is bi-racial, isn’t Black enough.
It’s a sad but very real state of where we are as a country, where the NFL is as a professional league.
McDaniel doesn’t fit in neatly with the perception that some have and expect of a man of color.
Sounds familiar? It should.
Because when it comes to Black men, being talented at your craft but in the eyes of some not being “the right fit,” that right there is about as Black as Black can be when it comes to our people.