I’ve often told people when asked about my experiences with racism that I have experienced as much if not more racism from my fellow black brethren as I have white people. Whether in candid conversation, in talks about my adolescent struggles with identity to the students of my youth ministry, or guest speaking to sociology classes at the university I was attending at the time, this comment has caught many off guard and by surprise. They often ask me to explain what I mean.
Well ladies and gentlemen I need not explain anymore. Look no further than sports journalist and ESPN personality Rob Parker and his comments or question about whether or not Washington Redskin Rookie Quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is a “brutha”or is he a cornball brother”. His little “honest question” as he calls it is exhibit A of what I’ve had to put up with for a good portion of my life from “bruthas” who suspected or straight up tagged me as a cornball brother as he so eloquently put it. When I was in school they didn’t come up with, no pun intended, corny names that beat around the bush of what they were really getting at. They were very much to the point when they called me an ‘Oreo’—black on the outside and white on the inside. They didn’t hide their feelings when they called me a sellout. It’s ironic to see a man of his ilk, a black journalist that has had some good measure of success to stoop to such an ignorant assessment of the quality and character of a man. I wish I had the opportunity to see Rob Parker so I could give him a piece of my mind. I know exactly what I would tell him…
“I’LL BE THAT! If given the choice between being what you deem a brutha and being a cornball brother then I’ll take the latter. See I discovered something in the midst of the struggle to be more than okay with who I am, and who I was raised to be. If talking proper English brought my blackness into question, so be it. If wearing my pants on my waist and not half way down my butt brought my blackness into question, so be it. If attending an all-white church made me a sellout then so be it. If having mostly white friends made me an Oreo then so be it. So be it because I know who I am. If having a straight-laced image with clean cut hair as opposed to braids makes me unworthy of hanging out with you then so be it (even though I had cornrows for a few years). I AM so much more than the ignorant, shallow, close-minded, negative stereotypes spin-doctored into being a definition of blackness and keeping it real. And I feel sorry for you that even with all your success, education and accomplishments that you are still trapped in that pathetic mental prison, that ghetto of the mind, that says to be truly black you must conform to the following standards of life and living that boxes you into a life that has done little more than yield a life expectancy of no more than 60 years old for black males in America. You can have your brutha life and all the fruitless accolades it garners you and I’ll stick to my cornball brother life.
You see, cornball brothers like me and RGIII, don’t need bruthas like you to tell us where our true value lies. Cornball brothers like me and RGIII were raised by parents who didn’t wipe the tears from our eyes after another day of being ridiculed for not being black enough by you bruthas. They looked us dead in the eye, and told us that the world is bigger than where we are currently; our neighborhood, our school, and our town. The world is bigger than the world you ‘bruthas’ try to make it out to be. We eventually learned to have the courage to simply be who we are, and surround ourselves with people who accept us for who we are regardless of what they looked like. You may find it surprising that surrounding ourselves with people who accept us for who we are is a big part of the reason why we date and even marry white women. As it turns out there’s a lot of sistas out there who are stuck in the same mental prison as you bruthas and won’t give us cornball brothers the time of day.
But that’s all right though. I’m not mad, cause as I said I know who I am. If it wasn’t for ignorant bruthas like you Rob, who made me feel like I was nothing I might not have been pushed to the point of searching deep within to find my true identity and worth that you bruthas wouldn’t know a thing about, and that is why I feel sorry for you. So as you bruthas would say, “I’ma do me dawg! You do you!” I don’t need to be included in whatever your cause is, you don’t need to worry about hanging out with me. I’ll be busy getting my cornball on!