Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Black Enough?


There have been several posts online the past week about an encounter Soledad O’Brien had with Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In an interview she had with Jackson, he challenged her “Blackness.” O'Brien lists in her bios that she identifies herself as a Black woman. She is biracil with her mother being of Afro-Cuban descent and her father being Irish.

Her career and work at CNN, especially in the past five years, has led her to be an advocate for Black and Latino people.

The encounter with Jackson in recounted in her new book The Next Big Story which was published this month.

Even though I am not sure what he [Jesse Jackson] is saying, I can tell he is angry. Today he is angry because CNN doesn’t have enough black anchors.

I interrupt to remind him, “I’m the anchor of American Morning”. He knows that. He looks me in the eye and reaches his fingers over to tap a spot of skin on my right had. He shakes his head. “You don’t count,” he says. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I don’t count — what? I’m not black? I’m not black enough? Or my show doesn’t count?

I was both angry and embarrassed, which rarely happens at the same time for me. Jesse Jackson managed to make me ashamed of my skin color which even white people had never been able to do.

I am immediately upset and annoyed and the even more annoyed that I am upset and pissed off. If Reverend Jesse Jackson didn’t think I was black enough, then what was I? My parents had so banged racial identity into my head that the thoughts of racial doubt never crossed my mind. I’d suffered an Afro through the heat of elementary school. I’d certainly never felt white. I thought my version of black was as valid as anybody else’s. I was a product of my parents (black woman, white man) my town (mostly white), multiracial to be sure, but not black? I felt like the foundation I’d built my life on was being denied, as if someone was telling me my parents aren’t my parents.
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