Dear White People: You Don't Decide Whether I'm Black

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Writer Tracey Ross, who says she's had her racial identity questioned because of everything from her hair to her interest in Buddhism, argues in a piece for Ebony that skepticism about her blackness reveals a misunderstanding of the forces that have shaped it.

… While the report focuses on how the Black community defines Blackness, many White people have taken up the mantle of assessing Black bona fides as well. As someone whose identity has been called into question mostly by White people, I hope the report served as an opportunity for White America to stop weighing in on Black authenticity and start listening.

White acquaintances have put me under the microscope to examine my hair, light skin, and features for inconsistencies with their notion of Blackness. They’ll declare I’m not Black, and insist that I claim being White as well. In reality, I have no problem acknowledging having White ancestry, but my White relatives seem like relics of the past. More like people who made a pit stop on the family tree, rather than people whose stories and lessons were passed down generations. I have no reason to think of myself as anything but Black. A quick history lesson could clear up any confusion, but to these people, seeing is believing.

My interests have also been assessed against a list of approved Black activities. A White friend once called me "White washed" for being interested in Buddhism (so many things wrong with that claim). And as I was offering my perspective on an issue, a friend suggested that we ask "someone who is really Black."

White people who feel entitled to weigh in on Blackness seem to base their notions of race on what makes them most comfortable …


Read Tracey Ross' entire piece at Ebony.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff. 

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