Paris Jackson, the daughter of the late and great Michael Jackson, recently made headlines for publicly declaring her blackness. Jackson’s declaration undoubtedly caused many to reread her statement in disbelief and brought others to a jilted laughter. However, Jackson’s admission presents an interesting duality with regards to blackness and identity. For one, Jackson’s declaration functions to discount whispers of Michael Jackson’s presumed self-hatred, as raising his children in his non-altered image most likely proves surprising to most, if not all who knew the superstar only through the veil of white media. Conversely, actor Taye Diggs, who has a son with his white ex-wife, references his child as “mixed” not black. This labeling indisputable consummates Diggs’ personal desire to escape his chocolate state and ultimately not pass this “curse” onto his child. This dynamic does not limit itself to Diggs but presents itself in every black person that breaks their identity into fractions, claiming races and ethnicities that would scoff at such affiliations. To juxtapose this behavior to Paris Jackson’s declaration reveals a disconcerting truth— it is often more fun/interesting to be black when this identity is a choice not predetermined fate.
Some blacks aim to dilute this fate with contemporary common phrase “mixed.” A “mixed” identity is as authentic as the illusory middle east. The invention of the middle east functions similarly to the breaking the sphinx’s nose, as both acts function to declare Kemet—land of the blacks, Egypt—the white man’s creation. The blacks of Ancient Kemet–with innovative creations like the calendar, pyramids, etc —discount everything the western world tried to suggest about black inferiority, Thus, the middle east functions to dilute black excellence to appease a fictive white superiority. The label “mixed” functions similarly, offering a caveat for blacks who challenge their caricatured identities. So a black woman with long hair, light skin or unconventional beauty commonly accompanies the label “mixed” as a means to suggest that these attributes are only possible in unique cases when African roots intertwine with European blood. Similarly, blacks who bear intelligence or a skill outside of singing, dancing and athleticism often accompany “mixed” labeling to maintain western ideologies.
The “mixed” label also functions to afford low self-esteem with an exceptionalism that only works to further black inferiority. The exception functions to lure the black body into a state of individualism, at the expense of depreciating the collective. For example, a “mixed” person may incur praise for her hair with the implication or overt declaration that non-exceptional blacks bear “bad” or “nappy” hair. Similarly, those believed to bear a mixed identity often become beautiful in seemingly complimentary behavior and actions that occur at the expense of deeming the black collective ugly.
Exceptionalism functions negatively in the black community as it functions to place an individual or a fictive pedestal above others within their collective. Exceptionalism solely appeals to those with low self-esteem. Namely, those who wish to look like or procreate with those who mirror Paris Jackson’s aesthetics, seek exceptionalism as a means to counter what they attribute to ugliness. While those of the majority arguably bear a fractured consciousness in their fictive identities, their fictive identities afford them a collective in which they view favorably. Thus, white exceptionalism functions to strengthen white superiority. Alternatively, white fiction affords blacks a collective in which they spend lifetimes working to distance themselves from, making inferiority not only ingrained but inevitable. While they may seem remote from the issue at hand, “mixed” identities and the illusory “middle east” function as part of this inferiority.
Inferiority, while commonly functioning as a choice also operates differently for blacks. Blacks do not choose to be inferior. Rather this inferiority is handed to us at every turn, crevice and factor of western life. Inferiority awaits the black individual who does not read to uncover the lost story of their ancestors. Inferiority awaits those unaware of their own beauty and become seduced by “the mixed” look and desire aesthetics that dilute the Nubian beauty of their indigenous origins. It is however, a choice to remain inferiority.
It is often inferiority that prompts many to accept “honorary” blacks who capitalize on our beauty but abandon us in our struggle. For those reasons, I am not sure that treating blackness as coat worn for aesthetic reasons is anything that I will ever support. While blackness is certainly not limited to a skin color, it is our hue, hair, facial features and body that sculpts the view in which we see the world. This view encounters countless obscurities, mixed and the middle east bearing prevalent means to fester the wound of black inferiority. However, my question isn’t whether or not it is appropriate for Paris to call herself black. My question is simply how is it appropriate for blacks to deny their own blackness, yet still, benefit from blackness when convenient? When will we regard those who claim “Indian” or “White” ancestors with more enthusiasm than they do overt black relatives in the same manner in which many of us discount Paris’ admission?
It is for this reason that I refer to those who find solstice in a “mixed” identity or adamantly argue that it is the Middle East that houses Kemet and not the continent, as runaway slaves. These runaway slaves seek to distance themselves from the plantation or modes of overt racism and adopt subtle racism instead. These modes of over racism act as invisible chains that embed themselves within the black psyche—rendering actual bondage trivial. Runaway slaves continue to populate the black diaspora and plague any attempts of advancement allotted by the conscious community—affording any step forward with two steps backward.