The Pressures of Keeping it Real in the Black Community

keeping it real

For those of you who saw the box office hit “Dear White People”, (a movie I LOVED by the way) you know that one of the main characters was Tyler James Williams, the actor we all know and love as “Chris” from “Everybody Hates Chris.” In “Dear White People”, Tyler plays a geeky, freshman writer by the name of Lionel Higgins, who also happens to be…gay.

Though the idea of him playing a role like that may have surprised some of us, (myself included) in reality, we have to admit, it really shouldn’t have. I mean, we DO know there are gay people in the world, and we DO know that art imitates life. Yet, for some of us, it was still hard for us to digest.

Tyler did an interview a few months ago for Huffington Post Live where he says he faced a lot of backlash from the Black community for his role in the movie.

I think this is interesting because Black folk…well a lot of us are homophobic. It’s always interesting to me when marginalized groups take it upon themselves to marginalize another group. When you really think about the psychology behind that…well, we don’t have enough time. But again, it’s quite fascinating.

I would argue that Black folk have a HUGE problem in our community, as it relates to  homophobia. Maybe more so than others. Some would argue that that simply isn’t the case. Some would say that EVERYBODY, people of all backgrounds have to deal with homophobia. That it isn’t just a Black issue. After doing some research, I learned that a bulk of the countries where same sex relations are illegal are in Africa. Even when you get over to the Americas, the places that ban same sex relations are places like Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, etc. To my knowledge, Russia is the only country in Europe that has adopted anti-gay legislation.

Are you a sell out if you are gay and Black?

What does it mean to “Keep it REAL” in the Black community? Well according to, it can be defined as:

To not be fake. Be yourself.

Also, see

When someone does not change who they are or what they believe due to societal pressures. Especially true with regards to someone who has attained some financial success but does not change their behavior. Alternatively, may relate to someone who maintains connections to their ethnic background in a multicultural environment.

There a few Black celebs that have been accused by the Black community of not “Keeping it Real.” Cuba Gooding Junior, Taye Diggs, Condoleeza Rice, to name a few. I admit, I’m guilty of it too. I regularly talk about how much of a sell out Don Lemon is. I don’t like anything he has to say…ever. Let’s take a look at some of the things some of our fellow Black brothers and sisters had to say over the years:

Bill Cosby:

People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids. $500 sneakers for what? And they won’t spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics.

Herman Cain:

“I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way”

Sheryl Underwood:

“Why would you save Afro hair?”

Stacey Dash:

On Black people-

“No, not at all. It still keeps them stuck. They’re getting money for free. They feel worthless. They’re uneducated. I mean, as long as you are that way, they can keep you under their control …”

Hmmm…now are these people sell outs? Or are they simply giving their opinion/speaking their truth? Can you speak out against Black folk as a member of the Black community and not be considered a disgrace to your race?

I remember being in school and having other Black people tell me that I “talked white,” or that I thought I was white because I had long hair and lived in a nice house. I liked to read. Was I sell out? AM I a sell out? You have to wonder what that really means…

Anybody remember the “Stop Snitching” campaign that was prevalent in some parts of the Black community a few years ago? “Stop Snitching” was everywhere…on shirts, hats, posters. Black people were urging other Black people to not talk to the police…even if they had witnessed a crime. If you did…you were considered a sell out. You weren’t “Keeping it Real.”

And what about Tiger Woods? Is he a sell out for only dating White women? Are Black people who date outside of their race failing to “Keep it Real”? Jilly from Philly thinks so.

Hmmmm…What do you think? Does straying from what people consider the “norm” in the Black community make you a sell out? Can you maintain your Blackness/culture and still be successful in America? When does “Keeping it Real Go Wrong”?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *