Editor's Note: In today’s United States, is being black determined by the color of your skin, by your family, by what society says or something else? Soledad O’Brien reports “Who Is Black in America?” on CNN at 8 p.m. ET/PT Sunday, December 15.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – What is black? Race. Culture. Consciousness. History. Heritage.
A shade darker than brown? The opposite of white?
Who is black? In America, being black has meant having African ancestry.
But not everyone fits neatly into a prototypical model of "blackness."
Scholar Yaba Blay explores the nuances of racial identity and the influences of skin color in a project called (1)ne Drop, named after a rule in the United States that once mandated that any person with "one drop of Negro blood" was black. Based on assumptions of white purity, it reflects a history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
In its colloquial definition, the rule meant that a person with a black relative from five generations ago was also considered black.
Your take on black in America
One drop was codified in the 1920 Census and became pervasive as courts ruled on it as a principle of law. It was not deemed unconstitutional until 1967.
Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants, had always been able to clearly communicate her racial identity. But she was intrigued by those whose identity was not always apparent. Her project focuses on a diverse group of people – many of whom are mixed race - who claim blackness as their identity.
That identity is expanding in America every day. Blay's intent was to spark dialogue and see the idea of being black through a whole new lens.
Soledad O'Brien: Who is black in America? I am
"What's interesting is that for so long, the need to define blackness has originated from people who were not themselves black, and their need to define it stemmed from their need to control it," says Blay.
Blackness, she says, isn't so easily defined by words. What is blackness for one person may not necessarily be that for another.
"And that's fine," Blay says. "Personally, my blackness is reflective of my ancestry, my culture and my inheritance."
"Black," in reference to people and identity, she says, is worthy of capitalization. Otherwise, black is just another color in the box of crayons. (CNN, like other news organizations, does not capitalize black or white.)
For young Americans, what's black is gray
CNN interviewed some of the people who participated in Blay's project to find out how they view themselves. What follows are their insights into race and identity.
Kathleen Cross: Black as a descriptor of color makes her identity hard to accept.
Black and white
California author Kathleen Cross, 50, remembers taking a public bus ride with her father when she was 8. Her father was noticeably uncomfortable that black kids in the back were acting rowdy. He muttered under his breath: "Making us look bad."
She understood her father was ashamed of those black kids, that he fancied himself not one of them.
"My father was escaping blackness," she says. "He didn’t like for me to have dark-skinned friends. He never said it. But I know."
She asked him once if she had ancestors from Africa. He got quiet. Then, he said: "Maybe, Northern Africa."
"He wasn't proud of being black," she says.
Cross' black father and her white mother never married. Fair-skinned, blue-eyed Cross was raised in a diverse community.
Later, she found herself in situations where she felt shunned by black people. Even light-skinned black people thought she was white.
"Those who relate to the term 'black' as a descriptor of color are unlikely to accept me as black," she says. "If they relate to the term 'black' as a descriptor of culture, history and ancestry, they have no difficulty seeing me as black."
At one time in her life, she wished she were darker - she might have even swallowed a pill to give her instant pigment if there were such a thing. She even wrote about being "trapped in the body of a white woman." She didn't want to "represent the oppressor."
She no longer thinks that way.
She doesn't like to check the multiracial box. "It erases everything," she says.
She doesn't like biracial, either. Or mixed. It's not her identity.
"There's only one race," she says, "and that's the human race."
"I am a descendant of a stolen African and Irish and English immigrants. That makes me black - and white - in America.
Biany Perez: Too Latina to be black, too black to be Latina?
Blackness and culture?
Biany Perez, 31, loves Michael Jackson but she doesn't know the Jackson Five. She didn't know that "Good Times" was a television show about a black family struggling to survive in south Chicago. Nor was she able to pick up certain colloquialisms in the English spoken by the black kids in the Bronx, where she grew up the daughter of Dominican parents.
Some people questioned Perez's blackness because she didn't fit into their definition of black.
She spoke only Spanish at home. She watched Telemundo and listened to Puerto Rican boy band Menudo.
She wasn't black enough because she was Latina and not Latina enough because she was black.
"The way I look shakes the image of Latina," says Perez, a program manager at a nonprofit in Philadelphia. "As I started getting older, I felt more comfortable in my skin."
Now, she calls herself Afro-Domincan.
"I think black is a broader definition I also embrace," she says. "Black is more than just saying that I am an African in America. It's political.
"It's about me connecting myself to my ancestors."
For Perez, black is about empowerment.
Kristina Robinson calls herself black over Creole.
Creole identity is a complicated thing in Louisiana, says Kristina Robinson, 29, of New Orleans.
It's an ethnicity, a cultural designation for people descended from colonial settlers in Louisiana, mainly of French and Latin lineage.
The term Creole was claimed by the French and Spanish settlers in colonial times but it also referred to Africans and people who were a mixture of races. Those mixed-race descendants became a unique racial group and sometimes even included Native American heritage.
But in popular representation, Robinson says Creole has come to be defined as skin color.
She doesn't want to deny the rich Creole history but she doesn't identify as such if it means moving away from her blackness.
Black people think that her embrace of Creole means a rejection of being black.
"I never wanted to distance myself from my black ancestors," says the creative writing graduate student at Dillard University.
"They are the ones who claim me."
In her light skin, Robinson understands the insidious ways of colorism, a system in which light skin is valued more than dark skin.
"Colorism is a major problem within the Creole community and the black community," she says. "It's underdiscussed. It's perplexing and vexing how to work out this idea. I can see how the one drop rule is why we have so much colorism in our society.
"One drop is a lie," she says. "Black plus white doesn't equal black or it doesn't equal white. It equals black plus white."
She calls herself black. But other people think she is from India or the Middle East, especially in her academic work environment, where she does not have black colleagues.
"The assumption is I am not black," she says.
Ultimately, she believes environment plays a big role in identity.
Few people, she says, think that of her sister. One reason may be that her sister has more of a button nose. But another reason is that she works in a field with more black people, whereas Robinson finds herself in academic settings where she is the sole black woman.
Robinson acknowledges her lighter skin gives her privilege in a color-conscious society.
"But in those situations where you have to identify yourself and you choose to identify yourself as white - there's a big denial going on there.
"I do think it's troublesome when someone who is of mixed race chooses to deny that part of them that was oppressed," she says.
James Bartlett: White privilege means the freedom not to have to address race.
Race equals identity, or not?
Race is a social construct; identity is personal.
That's how James Bartlett, 31, views it.
"I'm black, I'm biracial," he says of his black father and Irish mother, who met and married in Louisville, Kentucky, just a few years after a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
He was raised in an all-black neighborhood; his mother was the only white person on the block.
"I interchanged between saying I am biracial and I am black," he says. "The culture I live in is black. I felt black because black people considered me black. That was because of the one drop rule."
But later, when he went to Ghana, the locals thought he was from Lebanon. Kids called him "Oburoni," the word for a white man.
Bartlett felt as though he were being told he was not who he really was even before he could interact with them, as though they were taking away his black identity.
"It put me on the complete opposite side of the coin," Bartlett says. "The first reaction was to put me in a box."
In America, people thought of him as a lot of things but not usually straight-up white.
"It's difficult for me to separate race and identity," says Bartlett, the newly named executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan African Arts in Brooklyn.
He is black, he says, because he didn't grow up with white privilege. What is that? The freedom, he replies, to not have to address race.
"I definitely didn't grow up with that," he says.
Being white in America is also knowing that people who look like you are always representing your interests in institutions of power.
"That is the essence of white privilege," he says. "Regardless of changing (demographic) percentages and numbers, racial representation is going to remain out of balance for quite some time."
In some ways, Bartlett says, he has been more attuned to race as a light-skinned black man than he would have been had he been darker.
Bartlett feels white people in America are threatened by the tide of color across the nation and that it will give rise to an us against them" mentality.
"I think blackness will change, too," he says. "The biggest change in the near future will be the end of blackness as a diametric opposite to whiteness."
Charles Cloud: He could have passed for a lot of things. He chose black.
Here and abroad
Charles Benjamin Cloud, 63, remembers a time when he was angry at all white people. That was in the time of the white water fountain and the black water fountain.
"They had their side of town; we had ours," he says of his childhood in New Bern, North Carolina.
As the son of a Cherokee man and a part-Cherokee, part-black woman, Cloud could have passed for something other than black.
"If I had decided to tell everyone I was Puerto Rican or Mexican, people probably wouldn't have known a difference," he says.
But he didn't.
"I never wanted to identify as white," he says.
"Blackness is a state of mind more so than a physical experience. But back then, physical appearance was much more of a black identity than it is now."
Cloud joined the Air Force and traveled the world. His light, ruddy complexion threw people off. The Turks thought he was Turkish; the Iranians thought he was from Iran. He even passed for Greek.
But back home, he chose not just to be American. He was black.
Sembene McFarland gets strange questions because of her skin condition.
What happens when you lose your color as is Sembene McFarland, a 35-year-old emergency room nurse in Newark, New Jersey?
She has a condition known as vitiligo and is losing the pigmentation of her skin. The disorder affects people of all races but is most prominent in those with darker complexions.
McFarland describes herself as "garden-variety black" but once her vitiligo became noticeable, she found herself the target of outlandish comments.
When McFarland was working at a cash register job at a Barnes and Noble, a customer told her, "If you got rid of the rest of the color, you would be a really pretty Asian girl."
"Thank you very much," McFarland told the woman. "Have a nice day."
Now, she can't relay the story without laughing out loud.
Others have wondered: Were you white first or black first?
"That blew my mind," she says.
Her skin condition shows how people think of being black so literally, she says.
"When I think black, I don't think a particular shade," she says.
McFarland was 16 when she first learned she had vitiligo. It was tough. At that young age, no one wants to stand out.
Later she laughed. In high school in Mississippi, her classmates always joked she wanted to be white. She spoke like a white person. Some people said she sat like a white person - all proper.
Now here she was, turning white.
In the end, McFarland says, it's not about black or white. It's all the shades of gray that make people uncomfortable.
Brandon Stanford: My complexion is not black but I am black.
Unique but certain
Brandon Stanford's parents met in school in New Jersey. His mom's Irish family rejected her for dating a black man.
They've been married 37 years.
In that time, a lot has changed about being a child of an interracial marriage. For one, the man who occupies the White House is the son of a Kenyan man and a white American woman. Many Americans think being mixed is "cool."
Stanford, 29, has his own take.
"I wouldn't say that being mixed race is either cool or not cool," he says.
"I'd say it's a reality that one can choose to embrace by seeing the beauty of a world where the possibilities of transcending the limitations of race and racism exists if one is able to recognize the oneness of humanity. Is this not what our democracy is supposed to represent?"
Stanford, a graduate student in African-American studies at Philadelphia's Temple University, has had his identity questioned by both whites and blacks. That makes being mixed race difficult for some.
Some times white people speak about black people in front of Stanford, assuming he is white. He lets them go on for a while and then says: "By the way, I am one of them."
"I have a unique position in the world based upon what my complexion is," Stanford says. "I always have an opportunity to unsettle people's minds."
But Stanford has never wavered on his identity.
"My complexion is not black, yet I am black," he says.
Stanford doesn't deny his Irish ancestry. The Irish, he points out, were thought of as inferior by the English. They, too, faced discrimination in the United States. Black people were often called the "dark Irish," he says.
But the Irish in America distanced themselves from the anti-slavery movement in the interest of joining the white mainstream, Stanford says. That's where his connection to the Irish stops.
"I identify myself as African-American because of the history of the culture," he says.
Kaneesha Parsard: Blackness stems from a moment in history.
The past in the present
That's how Kaneesha Parsard, 23, grew up. She was the daughter of parents who immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1980s.
She didn't understand what her father's ancestry - her grandfather was Indian - had to do with her.
"I took the one drop rule pretty seriously," says Parsard, a graduate student in African-American studies at Yale University.
Parsard's father was born in British-ruled Jamaica. He was raised with Indian people but identified as black because, she says, of how exclusionary Indian communities can be in Jamaica.
She began to think about her own identity when roti and chicken curry appeared at the Thanksgiving table.
"What I have come to realize is that ... people's history is intertwined, that being mixed race is not at odds with being black," she says.
"When we think about blackness, it's usually along a black-white context," she says. "But there are many histories, interesting histories of resistance."
For Parsard, blackness stems from a moment in time in 1492, with the discovery of a new land and a history of brutality that followed.
Appearance is a primary factor for many Americans in determining race and identity. For Parsard and others in Yaba Blay's project, it's not.
As long as we don't have 18 Hispanic senators (and similar number of Black Senators), this issue will not go away.
Same for all other elected positions: Representatives, Governors, etc.
Maybe the question is being asked about being black in america because of (a) change in immigration or (b) change in physiology of the population. More mixed race looking people not only in america, but globally. Possibly be an interesting topic for those who study etymology?????
Does y'all being racialists against my peoples?
Thank you Soledad for another thought provoking question. We as blacks are not judged by the content of our character but by the color of our skin. Yes light skinned blacks have been deemed more acceptable in our American white society over dark skinned blacks. It was that white slave master who raped our black girls and women who made us biracial. Light skinned blacks appear to them as less aggressive, less threatening, more refiined, more social, more educated, more accpetable.
Good Lord, get over yourself. The only people blabbering on about blacks somehow being "different" are blacks. Most of what you perceive as racism is just other people tired of blacks incessant talk talk talk about race.
Couldn't agree more
Let me see if I got this right. You set there for an whole hour watching a story you did not agree with and thought it was irrelevant. And then you want to complain. CNN did a great job selling it to you to make you watch. My suggestion to you and others in the futrue, change the channel. I am sure there were other shows on such as Here Comes Baby Boo Boo or others that would have challenged your mind.
Isn't the election over?
Two elections (and many more coming) were decided by this issue. Better deal with it...
You know what the problem is about talking incessant about race, skin color, ethnicity is? It always turns to hate, no matter what side you're "on". Whether it's white people looking down on and hating blackness or black people angry at whites for everything and each other. You can no longer see the person because they have put up their fighting gloves. I think about my racial ethnicity, it;s true but I don't talk about it because what would it serve to remind people that I am of ______ and _____ descent? No one cares, honestly.
Best post on here.
I agree with you that no one care until you have a bi racial child that you love and have to think at the prospect of him being denied a promotion, a job, or even he have been doing as good as Obama but having some redneck disrespect him just because of the color of his skin...even he have achieve the ultimate goal that anybody can dream off...than you will care and will be less selfish, why because that will affect you... is like when you are in good health and young cancer advertisements always look annoying until that disease strike you...I understand it is just that selfishness that us human have in us we do not care about other people plight until it affects us ....
so for all who are tired of the poor me ....I'm black, Or say things like ...."it's not about skin colour or race". Special Announcement......IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! get over it. You live in North America that's what ii is about. Race may not affect how one lives life, but I wonder about decision makers and how that whole race thing plays out.
We all have had hurdles/challenges to bear and confront. If we have the strength and determination to use them in a contructive way for motivation to succeed, we can turn those assessments from others to a new assessment that would have to acknowledge the apparent success greater than any ethnic origin perception. Success at life sets an individual apart by their name and accomplishments and ethnic issues come later if at all.
I think a lot of people on here are missing the point of this segment. I went thorugh colorism in a predominantly white high school as a light skinned black girl and it was hard. Black girls said I wasn't black, white girls knew for a fact I wasn't white and though it may sound silly to white people, it was hard. I (along with a few of my friends) didn't fit in anywhere. At 38, I still get questioned and some people go so far as to say they don't believe me when I say I'm black. It's ridiculous and tiring to have to explain myself all the time. If you've never been through it, you'll probably never understand.
Same with Obama: He is Black because HE decided to be Black.
Same with me: I am Hispanic, because *I* decided I am Hispanic.
Some of us are lucky enough, we gt to choose.
With that logic. tonight I will decide to be what ever race benefits me at the time.
I have been through it
Its called life
My ancestors were Quakers at Nantucket, Rhode Island. They dedicated their entire lives to helping slaves escape to freedom. In fact, two of them were hanged because one of the slaves that they were helping ratted on everybody. Where is my compensation? I also find it amusing that it was the Arab Muslims who gathered the Africans for sale to slave traders; however, most black today identify with that faith. Hmmm
Most do? Most are christian. Hmmmm.
Perhaps stateside, but not in Africa.
CNN shape up or ship out. This is a terrible subject to bring up. Don't you have more creative and inspiring topics to discuss?
Choosing to bury one's head in the sand about an important and relevant topic will NOT make it go away. Seriously...we can talk about the Jewish Holocaust endlessly and people will not complain. Bring up race or racism and "some people" throw a hissy fit. Why? The pervasive denial about issues of race in this country is the MAIN reason programs like this are needed. Choosing to ignore the issue is akin to falling asleep on a train track with a train in the distance.
You just insulted me and my 52 million amigos, and then you wonder why your party is on its way to extinction.
I don't know why this is such a hot topic. I mean why do we have to keep bringing up being black in America as if it is a disease? You would think that there would be something else more important to talk about – what is it like being an American – get over it CNN – be done! It is very unfortunate that blacks in 2012 have to think they are not black enough. We've known forever that black comes in many hues – what does black have to do with it????Absolutely nothing
Funny, my experience in private school was quite different. We were a tiny school, but 95% white and 5% black. Of the 5 black students that were my classmates, 2 wound up being doctors, 1 died young (natural causes), and 2 wound up being regular 40-hour working stiffs like the rest of us.
Is there anyone out there besides me that is getting tired of this same old topic (or similar ones) over and over again? I don't even know what my ancestral background is and I really don't give a sheet either. Get over it. Can't you write about something more interesting?
I couldn't agree more Mark. Apparently there is money in race baiting, gay rights and illegals because CNN can't get through a news cycle without hitting all three.
We do not care what color you are, really nobody cares. What we care about is your character> Are you an honest citizen helping those who need help are you a greedy person who looks only after yourself. Honesty, willing to help that is what we need and we do not care if you are green , yellow, brown or whatever.
If white people talked about being white as often as black people talk about being black they would be branded racists and marginalized.
whats your point?
You say we are obsessed about race? Well, duh! Yes, we are. In the same fashion that rabbits are obsessed with shotguns...
Oddly appropriate metaphor. Here in New York, blacks and Hispanics commit 96% of shootings and murders.
agreed. if we're working towards equality for all ethnicities, namely black people, why do we keep singling them out in articles like this?
I WANT equality, don't misunderstand me, I just don't think you can fight for equality and still have a Black History Month, articles like this, etc.
I don't know, I don't care, and it just doesn't matter to me..
Means "Gimmee, gimmee
I just saw this in the Website Disclaimer:
"Anybody who disagrees with the CNN editorial lines or forum policies, can go to Faux themselves:
You are a irresponsible dog owner.
Why does CNN run liberal articles like this? As a black person from overseas, I am ashamed of American blacks. They do not value education and cannot behave themselves. I do not like racism, but when I see how blacks act in America, I feel any hatred towards them is justified. Worst thing is, white liberals encourage it. Nothing will change for the better until blacks start taking responsibility for themselves.
I don't believe for a second that you are Black...
As Bill Cosby would say, "some folk need to get out more." You mean that some black people that you have met are .......so and so. But, you do not mean all black people.....so, you need to get out more. Just do it!
And, when you come to America, some people will view you the same way you view American blacks
Wow way to generalized. Please stay wherever the hell you are.
Who should care what color you are? I am white and I am being discriminated because of that. I am Swiss thank the Lord and so I give a rats a... what color you are. This lady on CNN is trying to say that being black is a problem bit she got into Harvard because she is considered black or brown or whatever. So shut up and accept you are of color.
You missed the point of the show entirely. Did you watch it or are you just commenting on the name of the show? From most of posts on here, it doesn't look like anyone actually watched it.
dear cnn, WHY DO YOU CONTINUE to try to create race wars. ITS NOT ABOUT COLOR ITS ABOUT CHARACTER. skin color is a non issue but you continue to make it one.
So you are trying to tell ME that there is no racism?
Do you realize how offensive and insulting that is?????
You people need to stop telling others what their life experiences are. Why don't you go eat some jello or something
This is ridiculous. Now I want to see a page about being "Yellow in America," "White in America" and "Tan in america." I can't believe you are allowed to run this utter crap on the main page. Stop making race and color into an "issue."
You are right, I'm getting tired of the "Poor Me crap I'm Black"
Both of you need to try clicking on the articles you actually want to read and stop complaining in the ones you don't want to read. It makes you look stupid
And you look even more stupid complaining about us. Grow up, I can have an opinion too.
This is so stupid.
"Stupid is as stupid posts"
What does it mean to be black in America? I can tell you first hand.
It means you are constantly fighting stereotypes that are reinforced by our people on the evening news every night . . . in every city. These people are not black americans, they are thugs but it is difficult to separate yourself from these fellow blacks when whites, latinos and asians have fifty years of case studies that they reference instantly.
Being Black means accepting the fact that we must work harder to be considered even. I own a small business in NJ and I have hired dozens of african americans. About 50% of these people were terminated because they simply did not show up on time often enough. I have a "five and goodbye" policy which means if you are late for work 5 times in your first 90 days, you FIRED YOURSELF. No excuses. Why? Because in the real world there are no excuses.
Being Black means that you must dress the role as well. No tattoos, no strange names and clothing designed to intimidate. Be professional. get an education and you will get a job. But know this: If you cannot show up on time consistently, you may as well not go for the interview,. There are ALOT of excellent candidates on the market right now. Take pride in yourself!
You said blacks are constantly fighting stereotypes, yet you reinforce that stereotype by admitting that 50% of your black hires get fired for not showing up to work.
How is that stereotyping? It's statistics from his business. Unbelievable.
California author Kathleen Cross stated "My father was escaping blackness," she says. "He didn’t like for me to have dark-skinned friends. He never said it. But I know." This in itself is a racist statement. How does she know her father didn't like dark skin? Maybe he disliked mis-behaving kids and wanted his daughter to be a an upstanding, taxpaying citizen and not someone on the government gimme programs also known as the 47%. How sad that Romney was wrong with that statement, turns out to be 52%.
I get it sir but the true sadness for me comes when people won't even give me a chance. But I do GET IT!
This is a silly comment. She knows because he was HER father and has been witnessing her father's actions, reactions, and comments for years. Unless you grew up estranged from your immediate family, there is no way you won't know about their prejudices.
How does she know her father didn't like black skin?....Because she lived with him as his daughter! How stupid for you to read a short passage and question her on that.
Blacks are our hommies (we even share some hos), and we Latinos are their amigos. Same with Jews, they are our khaveyrim, we are their hermanos.
-Ramon The Champion of All Minorities in Forums (including Gays and Women Called vvhores by Conservatives)
The only possible confrontation must be that of TOLERANCE versus HATRED.
Yeah, lets breed racism by discussing the differences between the color of our skin! Reality check, most people who grew up during segregation are dying. Kids didn't grow up in that time of turmoil so lets understand that it was a different time then. Calling someone "African American" is inaccurate. For most a direct connection between Africa doesn't exist anymore. That's like identifying me as a "European American", it isn't accurate. I don't think and behave a specific why just because my ancestors are from Europe. How about we focus on human traits. Like, is that person a good person? Do they have good morals? Are they intelligent? Do they carry themselves in a respectable manner? I'm tired of the race games, social economical games, and all the other garbage. White/Male/26
You are so out of touch my friend! Amazed by your ignorance. Really...
Soledad needs to go to a psychiatrist and find out what her obsession about race is. Would she even have a career if she didn't bang this drum over and over?
That's all this "news reader" can do. Look at her credentials. If it wasn't for her catering to all of the race bating fluff she'd be on MSNBC instead of Maddow.
Would you except any less from her!
What a waste of space this so-called article is. CNN can be such a crap starter.
If ever a subject has been beat to death, this is it.
Wooo KEEP GOEING
Look at katrina the blacks loot when there is a tragic event
All 3 of my children are biracial (Black Mother/White Father) they do not deny their Irish heritage but identify more with their African American heritage primarily because they have been raised by their Mother. One child who looks Caucasian is constantly told by her white peers that she 'talks Black' they are in shock when she proudly tells them 'I am Black'. Let this be a lesson to those who lack the experience of diversity, that you can never assume what race someone is by the way they look.
Talk Black? Please clarify. If you are referring to the idiots in "da hood" then it's not black they are talking. It's something else. And it's not to be proud of.
Actually, isn't that the definition?
I thought this was December..not February...save this for BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Didn't CNN post a similar article a couple of months ago? It's getting old fast and I'm tired of having this subject pushed in my face. Get over it already.
At the bottom line I is really silly that the amoun of melanin in your skin has been given any credence. Having spent time in man different countries th great equalizer is th color green ...money.....no matter what race or culture I have seen the biggest determinate of your success and ability to adapt to society around you is th ability to have a middl class life style..we are all the humn race and th color of our kin ma well b the least important thing about us.
Why can't we all just be Americans?? The only time I consider people as "black" is when they are making it known that they are black and want to be considered black. Like in this article..
I agree with the person who said why can't we all be Americans. I believe too much focus on Black or African American. I'm an American and that's good enough for me.
I meant to say: I believe too much focus is put on Black or African American.
Clearly, Sembene McFarland is Scottish. (poor gal)
I agree with the idea of treating people equally, but cultural differences are real, and tolerance means really *understanding* where other people are coming from, not just pretending like they're not different!
I don't know why you resented learning about people backgrounds in this article you chose to read. But the problem is that–just sometimes–being "color-blind" has tended to lead to people being "racism-blind". Help us out by appreciating understanding difference. :)
First, I'd like to say I appreciate this article and the attention CNN has given this subject. You guys are pretty bold to keep covering this topic–especiall with the backlash.
If you want to know how uncomfortable America is with talking about race, just read any comments on any news article that discusses the topic. We absolutely hate confronting it. Even when an individual shares their personal experiences with race and what it means to them, somehow hunreds of people can easily dismiss their perspective.
So here's the big news flash (this being a news site...it only seems appropriate). "When someone of African descent shares their story, it doesnt negate your story. It doesn't lessen you. It doesn't increase them. It only broadens EVERYONE's perspective to know what everyone experiences."
This is 2012, it's time to come out of our boxes and stop acting like race means nothig and has no affect on anyone. For many people it's still a very touchy subject. How touchy? Just read a few of these comments to get a clear picture. The very mention of it sets people off–Black & Other.
Most black kids grow up with the mentality of playing professional sports because they see that sports is where the black man is the majority, and because they see that they almost believe that it is a certainty and because of that mentality they find no reason to focus on formal education. Not realizing at the time that such a small small percentage of people make it to the professional level they find no reason to focus on or for that matter pay any attention towards studying and studying and more studying, instead putting all of their chips into sports. Then when things start to go sour they turn to the drug/gangsta life thinking its the only way to making real money because they have convinced themselves that they cant go back to school and try to learn, then beginning to realize it takes years upon years of studying to have a well paying well respected job just like it took them years upon years of training their body in hopes of making it pro. simple way to put it they choose to be all bronze and no brain. But fellas and ladies, kids, you guys can do it, if one black man has what it takes mentaly to study and study and make it in this world then every black person has that capability if they want it. Put down the ball, Pick up the book.
Obama really changed that.
What it means to be Black
It means you can't be White
Blacks are 12% of the population, if we voted 3X each we couldn't put Obama in. Final so STFU
if you want white in America try, Fox news, tea party, GOP, CMT, and Freemasons for starters.
And ofcourse they ask people with not much deep substance what being black in america means. If you want to know the truth, go to the graves of black men who were lynched and that of Trayvon Martin whose murderer still remains free and whom the fbi couldn't conclusive "hear' if he uttered a racial slur or not before he killed him. Or better yet, watch the death video of Derek Williams who died in the rear of a police car in Milwaukee while a white officer watched him suffocate to death without rendering assistance or attempt to "really" figure how a 21 year old Chavis Carter could commit suicide in Arkansas while double locked hand cuffed in the back of a squad car. Than maybe I'll consider reading the real article.
OR how about all the retaliation and crime against whites from blacks just for being white with a media cover up? Yeah, white girl bleed... alot!
I agree fully. When CNN can interview those dead AA males, I'm first in line to read that article too!
If you dont like America dont let the door hit you on your free loading ass as you go to your choice of a one way ticket
You can do the same.
We are all COLORED, just a different color
Red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world. LOL
All white, but half Objibaway, I've heard more then my share of indian jokes and have always said I'm half native. This gets some people uncomfortable, well the reason I say that I'm half and half is to make them think and that's all, I've rasied my sons to judge people by their actions and it your an idiot no matter what colour your still an idiot. We see discrimination in Canada, but its everywhere, and by discrimination I mean any colour or race against another, history is hard to change but it does, there will always be haters, the thing is to not let them hold sway over everybody else, if that happens again everyone could be screwed. Just stand up when you should so injustice and ignorance never prevail, whether your at work, at a ball game, or even when you see the media glaze over a story that should be heard. Speak out. Its the one thing they can't take away.
I thought this was an excellent article. This country is too occupied with pigment not people. Are we too Black too White too Asian.... Why can't we all just be people? I don't consider myself a German/Irish/English/ American. I am an American. I am a women, an artist, a mom, a wife who happens to be glow in the dark pale pink person. I can't wait until the day when we can be who we are first and not a color or religion. Let's stop expecting people to fit into their "Race" stereotype and let them be who they are or who they want to be
as an individual.
Is it just me, or are half of those folks are NOT black. Trust me, I'm judging from an unbiased point of view (I'm Asian American).
Sam, all due respect, but an unbiased perspective does not exist.
Fascinating topic. I never thought or "decided" what Soledad O'brien "was" – I have watched CNN for years. My idea of Soledad was that she was pretty and good at her job. One day she said that she was black. Really, well never thought of that..if I had wondered or been asked...I would have said, maybe Italian, Hispanic,American Indian...her first name sounds spanish to me and her last name to me is Irish. I am Irish and German. And so it goes....
what does it mean to be brown,red, yellow or white in america?
While I know and admire many black men, women, and children, I am really as sick as many of my friends are about constantly having it thrown in our faces. Bet, Naacp, UNCF and a gazillion other issues. Looking to history 75% of the slave traders in Africa were black themselves. What about the millions of different cultures in which a mans pigment may be something other than Northern European White? This article only serves to exploit many good people who are alot more than just a skin color.
I'm an old white woman, so I cannot claim to understand the issues here, but I would love for these to be NON issues for all of us.
Certainly, I think you would find that most people would agree, Shee.
I propose that Blacks hate being Black – and they will forever play the race card.
thats a stupid proposal
They why don't they stop playing it. I know, it's Bush's fault. But all you Obama voters NOW OWN the problems. So solve them without bankrupting us please. Since when the USA goes bankrupt, ALL OF US will be bankrupt, not just whites. Stop the class hatred, race card playing and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE.
That's not a reasonable proposel, although my might be, you take that keyboard your tapping on and shove it where the sun don't shine. Idiot
kind of silly that people who are 1/16 black or 1/16 native american call themselves black or native american.
The "one drop" rule is racist.
Knew a guy that said if he considered himself white or pursued his irish heritage his family would be mad at him. He is whiter in appearance than me of sicilian descent.
And guess who came up with that racist rule? It wasn't those effected by it.
The first time I saw Susan Rice in an interview, it never occurred to me she is a "Black" woman. I had to be told that I was a racist, because I thought she was a liar.
When are we going to be judged for out actions, not our heritage? I'm ready!
Hear, hear! I am all for honoring your heritage, but asking the rest of the world to recognize you by your race seems kind of...racist.
Who gives a crap.
You let race define you when you define yourself by your race.
Race politics and racism is the providence of the left.
If Fox News did a bit on 'What it means to be White' – they would be sued into oblivion.
Why are so many people aggitated by this article? I'm white and found this article to be quite intriguing. I'm not offended by it's exclusiveness nor the fact many blacks endured hardships at the hands of my ancestors.
My great grandfather died fighting for the Union Army at Gettysburg. My maternal ancestors immigrated from Europe in the late 1800's. How am I responsible for oppressng Blacks? It's time we all started getting over it, before we end up like Arabs in the Middle East.
It's a great article, and I'm sitting here with my jaw dropped reading some of these comments.
I believe the message the author is making is in order to understand what it is to be black, you cannot be black. Everyone else understands but you cannot because you are black. That must be why the story was published, because blacks don't know who they are. They apparently need anyone but black people to understand what it means to be black. I have to assume they simply must not be capable of it after reading this piece...
Hey Solidad you ignorant fool.
You show a picture of John Brown, a man who put everything on the line to liberate Black slaves and associate him with the rape of Black women. You should be ashamed and everyone on your staff should be ashamed. Know your history IDIOT.
my friends two year old calls black people "chocolate face" is that O.K.?
Yes it's fine
That would be appropriate according to Ray Nagin.
The history of how they came to be here and how they have been treated are very different histories indeed.
Whats it mean to be white. If you stop these kind of stories there wouldny be so many problems with race
Was watching this on CNN with Soledad O'Brian..They did a story on someone of mixed race in Philly and talked about the guy's father, a white man, who I used to play basketball with growing up in the neighborhood. Never knew the guys name but I did know he was different from the rest of us but there was a lot of love and respect for him at the playground from everybody. This guy was awesome on the court.
Every person on the planet has African DNA: all share a common female ancestor on their mother's side ("Mitochondrial Eve," who lived in Africa 150,000-200,000 years ago). All living males share DNA with "Y-Chromosome Adam," who lived in Africa 60,000-80,000 years ago. Google "A Paler Shade of Black" by Linda Beckerman for a good summary of the Human Genome Project. Skin color is just a matter of light vs. vitamin D absorption: Jablonski and Chaplin compared NASA's global ultraviolet measurements to data on indigenous skin color in more than 50 countries, and found a definite correlation: the weaker the ultraviolet light, the fairer the skin. At its root this is a simple environmental adaptation. Less than a tenth of a percent of our genome reflects external appearance; we are 99.9% the same. Kids should be taught this in elementary school. Maybe they'll go home and teach their parents.
So can I get my race card now?
CNN, why so infatuated with race? Desperate to boost up those sagging ratings? Come on, guys... that's the oldest trick in the book. We're wise to you. People are people. Let's get used to it, learn to love each other and move on. I wish the media would stop picking at this scab and let us all heal.
You can bury your head in the sand but the issue will not go away. Racism is the big pink elephant in the room. There is no "scab" because the wound has not healed. The election of Barrack Obama did not "wipe away" or cleanse this country of the scourge of racism. If anything it's worse now than ever before because so many people are both ignorant about the history of race relations in this country and would rather bury their hands in the sands than deal with this issue.
What another crap, anti-white racist hit piece. Oh poor things, they aren't a part of the "White privelege." The only way whites are priveleged is that we have made things work everywhere we have settled in the world. So sick of the victim crap and the race-pandering media.
Your answer's a bit extreme, but I agree, when are going to get past of all this. There are so many mixed race Americans, we are such a diverse society, at some point, isn't your heritage what you make of it? Define yourself by what you do with your life and your family.
I was born in Africa and so were 6 generations before me. We are of European and East Indian descent. I look white and speak with a South African accent. I have been in the US 32 years. I have no idea how to classify myself racially. I have never felt at a racial disadvantage. I call myself a Mixed African, but look like an old white guy. I'm not sure that I feel the need to classify myself racially but my kids (born in the US) had trouble when they applied to college. There was no box to check.
I recently was sent some nonsense non-census stuff from the US census bureau, which I was required to fill out by law about my household members. We all look white and identify as white, but this thing wanted us to go further into heritage and identify each of us from the country of origin off our ancestors. Really? Like each of us had ancestors that came from one country? (It actually said, "Italian, Irish, German, English...") I just wrote "European." What difference does it make? Why was I sent this? I know I have ancestors from France and Ireland, I think my children have ancestors from Mexico but this is uncertain, what the heck am I supposed to write for my kids? How many hyphens does a person need before they are just simply human?
What does it mean to be white in America ?
Recently it means to be Donald Trump, Joe Wilson of S.C. , John Sununu of N.H. Another person might be "other"....ie: President Obama.
Good point . It is easier to blame whitie.
Just reporting on this topic is racist. Epic fail on Mrs. Obrien's part.
Those are the WHITEST looking 8 black people i have ever seen! Good job CNN! #NOT. (P.S. I am white)
Take it your username is not accurate.
You are an idiot. No argument you ever will make will make it other than the 'ether'.
Go to school. Please.
For a nation that should be color blind we spend an awful lot time on the subject of color. Racism is here to stay as long as we divide ourselves by race. We are all human, just human.
Jeez – So tired of this - What does it mean to be a white male in this country... It's not no freaking cakewalk either!
Is..... O'Brien really an african name?
Roughly translated it means "Permanent Whiner"
black, white, brown, red, yellow. all inferior skin colors to green.
LOL! Good one!
I'm black, and I'm so tired of CNN always talking about what it means to be black. Can we please move on, CNN? My race has no affect on how I choose to live my life.
Thank you. I too am growing tired of CNN and its fixation with race.
CNN shouldbe ashamed that this story was publshed. Rascism will never go away as long as people are encouraged to refer to themselves as black or white instead of simply HUMAN. This story, along with the NAACP and KKK all encourage racial divide and need to be removed from our socety!!!
Blacks do not want racism to go away. They use racism when it does not even apply. Blacks are the biggest racist.
This has to be one of the dumbest post I have read.
Child, you need to get out more! Are you giving Baltimore a bad name? Come on!
How can you give Baltimore a bad name?
To compare KKK to NAACP is ignorant indeed and a flagrant disregard for the fact the NAACP would have never been created if not for hate groups like KKK. KKK used anonymity to terrify law abiding citizens for one reason – that they were not white. Murder and oppression protected by law and shrouded in cowardice does not equate to legalized favoritism.
Yes, but in our quest for equality, NAACP has outlived its time. I want to see less 'advancement for a special group' than an equal effort to get people on the same level, and treat each other with mutual respect and civility. We are not our skins. We are how we behave, how we live, how we grow and learn from our mistakes.
Overseas, the issue isn't skin, it is behavior. I want it here, the same way.
Nailed it, IL. Racism is racism, no matter how you couch it or attribute it as a reaction to something (hey, I thought only "Repuglicans" were "reactionary"). To compare race-based groups with one another is, in fact, illustrative.
I feel that this "black" issue is out of control. We have more important issues to deal with.
Blay, a dark-skinned daughter of Ghanian immigrants is not an African-American. She is American if she was born here or Ghanian if she wasn't. Can't be both. That is the problem.
African-American just means and American of African descent, much like Irish-American refers to an American with Irish parents.
Why not simply American?
Call me what you like. I am black, however, what works for me is not to mind other people's lives and/or make their personal affairs my concerns, no matter the background, ethnic or otherwise.
Benefit: I am able to have my own agenda well taken care of, no drama, no mess. I don't participate in drum circles or chant for the motherland because I don't feel any such connection. I have two graduate degrees, never was on public assistance, and don't plan on it.
Correction: If you're a liberal or CNN, it's JUST about the color of your skin...in America...
Question? Why is it that if a black man marries a non-black woman, the children are black? If he wanted black children he would have married a black woman. He didn't. Now when are you going to acclimate the child to the mother's family and culture. There was a time when we considered those children apart of the black community. Now in the twenty-first century they are saying "No thanks". I don't want to offend them so I will go along with their declaration. Now when they want to 'Get Lifted" or "Seasoned" they know my name. I have been loving and accepting but now I have too many kids, and the black kids are not getting their nourishment, love and attention. What is this "The Imitation of Life".
For me it has never been about 'what are you'? I look at people and appreciate how beautiful they are and will sometimes be compelled to ask, 'what is your ancestry'? Bi-racial means lots to things to different people. Just embrace your ancestry whatever it is and Praise God because you are uniquely and wonderfully made.
I know what liberals should do! If they are worried about black people not being recognized as blacks and vice versa, we all should just be made to wear signs on our clothing that indicates what we are... o... wait a minute...
You've been reading to many library books ...or you need some serious professional help!!!!
I see a bunch of beautiful people.
I'm a minority and even I'm tired of this crap.
Some of us blacks are too!
After reading a lot of these comments, I'm doubly glad that I teach...and have for a few years...a course in Black Native Americans. I do a lot of research for the course, and I know for a fact that racism is alive and flourishing in this country, and that people of color are, in many places, still discriminated against, just as women still are. For anyone who doesn't believe it, come to the South, to small towns, to rural communities. The Klan still has rallies, people are still afraid, and I...a white Catholic Yankee...have had a cross burned in my yard and my storage shed doused with gas and torched. Welcome to the real world, folks! You can turn a blind eye to it, claim it doesn't exist, but hatred of anyone who is different still lives!
racism, if it still exists, is caused by people like you and obama, who only have one desire in life, to racially and economically divide our country. please, if you can, explain why blacks, despite every social program devised to improve their lot in life, still have the highest crime rates, out of wedlock rates, and are the recipients of 60% of all social welfare $$$ though only comprising 15%
I'm sure you got those statistics from fox news !!
In recent statistics it shows that the majority of people on welfare are white.
racism, if it still exists, is caused by people like you and obama, who only have one desire in life, to racially and economically divide our country. please, if you can, explain why blacks, despite every social program devised to improve their lot in life, still have the highest crime rates, out of wedlock rates, and are the recipients of 60% of all social welfare $$$ though only comprising 15% of the USA demographically?? then, please tell me why 95% of blacks voted for obama, and whites voted approx 50/50% for obama, that whites are somehow the racists?? The facts of the matter are that blacks are the true racists in the USA, and not the whites, and the facts prove it!
Because White people have always been racist!
Hey, RYNC, why don't you just move to downtown Chicago, Philly, or Cleveland and try teaching? Ha, ha, ha, you'd be gunned down by racist blacks in a second, you hypocritical libtard... btw, I am a lifelong dem.
when your country is still conversing about peoples outward appearances as an issue, youre not evolving yet and you'll never talk about the economy or solve any real problems in the world.
Finally...someone with something intelligent to say. This crap is and always be a smoke screen to keep our minds off the real issues.
As a result of reading this article, I feel empowered to actively discriminate against the two women on the left side of the photos, and not really give a damn about dealing with the others.
Well it's official. CNN has hit rock bottom
Huh. Is it February already?
Just telling you what they said.
unfortunately for 90%+ being black means being a slave to the democratic party and their socialist agenda. they are just pawns that receive free stuff for their votes and each time they do more and more freedoms disappears forever
i started a foundation to work with kids in the intercity and have supported ministries in the "black community" so i have a right to say this-this has to be the dumbest most prejudice article i have ever seen--it is like the KKK in reverse and stirs the pot. Why can't we all be one in Christ???
we're not all Christian?
Starting a foundation doesn't give you any rights. You need to start a foundation for overprivileged whites who think they are better everyone else.
Start with the founder to get everything started!
What about the rest of the minorities? Not a word. Hmmm...
What a load of malarky.
Because you would never ever see a story like this about white people and their heritage, and we're getting tired of it.
Sounds reasonable to me.
Where is the CNN story "White in America: It's not just about the color of your skin" ?
That's filed with the one called "Mexicans aren't the only Mexicans."
White in America means you work hard and take care of your own.
White in American means that you benefit from the hard work of other people and then use and trick other people into taking care of your own.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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