What Does It Mean to Not be Black Enough? - Higher Education


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What Does It Mean to Not be Black Enough?

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I am an African American male and I can remember the days when we were called Negro. My parents were called colored.

Our most recent descriptor is African American which succeeded us being called Black.

Many of my generation have also heard the terms “Uncle Tom” and “acting White.” The latest in this category is “you’re not Black enough.”

Now not to my face but I suspect that I have been called all of the aforementioned terms.

So the question comes up, what is Black enough and what are the qualifications? Who fits the bill?

Recently this Black enough issue was attached to Russell Wilson, the quarterback of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

I don’t know Russell Wilson however I do know that he was a successful college quarterback at both North Carolina State University and the University of Wisconsin. He earned his college degree and was a draft choice of the Seahawks.

There have been times I have listened to him being interviewed on both radio and television. My initial thoughts were that this is a reasoned young man who leads his team at the quarterback position. He has command of the English language.

What makes him not Black enough? Does his fair complexion make him not Black enough? Does his curly hair make him not Black enough? I don’t know his politics so does that make him not Black enough?

That he appears to be comfortable around all people make him not Black enough? That he wears a coat and tie make him not Black enough?

African Americans come in all varieties. There is not a prototype for us. The only common denominator for us is our skin color and even that comes in different shades and hues.

A lot of us can recall terms like red bone, light skin and good hair. I didn’t fit any of those descriptors.

Unfortunately some in the world have stereotyped us. You know the stereotypes so I won’t go into them.

My parents gave me a solid foundation, self-esteem, confidence and sent me on my way.

It is my belief that many of the characteristics attributed to Black people have hurt us. We have been pigeon-holed into being and acting a certain way.

If we don’t conform to this construct then we are labeled not Black enough. If our positions don’t agree then some would cast us aside. That obviously is not right.

If anything we as Black people must be more understanding and more temperate because of our history.

What I find to be troubling is that it is us saying that we are not Black enough. How can that be?

Media outlets have convinced some of us that there is a uniform Black code of conduct; that there is some unwritten set of guidelines that we must adhere to on a daily basis.

Two of my heroes are Arthur Ashe and Colin Powell. Why? Arthur Ashe was my role model during my days of playing high school and college tennis and Colin Powell because of his service to his country and his Jamaican background which I share.

I wish Russell Wilson well in all of his endeavors both on and off the field.

If a young football player is looking for someone to emulate, I would suggest they try Russell Wilson because he is sharp, smart and savvy.

Dr. James Ewers is the President Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring Committee in Ohio. He served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.

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