In a recent interview, Taye Diggs opened up about his fear that society will only see his son as a Black boy. He says that his son is biracial, and for him, that would be the appropriate term to use. “When you [call biracial kids Black], you risk disrespecting that one half of who you are and that’s my fear,” he explains to Chris Witherspoon at theGrio.com. “I don’t want my son to be in a situation where he calls himself Black and everyone thinks he has a Black mom and a Black dad, and then they see a white mother, they wonder, ‘Oh, what’s going on?'”
He goes on to say-
Well, OK. He goes on to use President Barack Obama as an example of misusing Black versus biracial. “As African-Americans, we were so quick to say OK ‘he’s Black, he’s Black,’ and then there were the white people who were afraid to say he was biracial because who knows,” says Diggs. “Everybody refers to him as the first Black president. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying that it’s interesting. It would be great if it didn’t matter and that people could call him mixed. We’re still choosing to make that decision, and that’s when I think you get into some dangerous waters.”
Here’s my response:
Dear Taye Diggs,
I hope this letter finds you well. I must say, you’ve always been much of an enigma to me. I never could quite figure you out. And perhaps that’s a good thing. While I may never uncover all the layers that a man like you possesses, there are some things that I DO see that I just have to mention.
For starters, you accused Black people of not calling bi-racial people by name, while simultaneously claiming that white people are afraid to use the word because of us. Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a second, shall we? Where are we, you ask? The year 1910. This is when Tennessee first adopted the one-drop rule.
The one-drop rule is a social and legal principle of racial classification that was historically prominent in the United States asserting that any person with even one ancestor of sub-Saharan-African ancestry (“one drop” of black blood) is considered to be black (Negro in historical terms
Just for clarity’s sake-BLACK people aren’t the ones who came up with this rule, my love. So I’m not quite sure why you didn’t mention WHITE people at ALL during this portion of the interview-except to defend them. Seems a little suspect, to me.
But aside from that, I can’t help but think that your childhood has something to do with the way you view race. You talked about growing up as a “chocolate” boy in a majority white neighborhood, and how you were often teased. Somehow, I think you’ve internalized that.
You accused Black women of “only being attracted to thugs” as a way to explain why you’ve had trouble with them in the past, but still-you’ve shifted the blame. You’ve managed to blame Black people for the one drop rule, as well as blame Black women for your inability to relate to them. When do YOU begin to take on some of the responsibility? When do you begin to point your finger in the right direction?
As I’m sure you’d agree, we (Black people) aren’t a monolithic group. I’m sure you could’ve found a Black woman who’d be interested if you really tried-if you really wanted to.
But I’ve said all of that to say this-whether you like it or not, your son is Black to most of us. Now, whatever he chooses to identify as when he gets older, is completely up to him. But I think we all have to be realistic when it comes to race and how phenotype plays a major role in how we decide to classify people.
Your son, who has kinky hair and brown skin, is going to have a hard time convincing anybody that he’s white. So we’ll scrap that option. Unfortunately, he will then have to choose between identifying as Black or biracial. And I’m not saying he will have to make a verbal declaration, but if he doesn’t, society will surely choose for him.
While I think it’s a noble idea, for you to fear the possibility that your son may “forget” that he’s half white, I also think it’s unfair not to share with him the reality of the world that he lives in.
Let’s be honest, there’s a certain way we have to raise Black boys in America. There’s a specific formula. We have to teach Black boys things no one should ever have to learn as a child. But it’s necessary for their survival. For their own good. We have to teach them that they can’t do what their white peers do-even IF their mother happens to be white. They cannot gather in large crowds, they can’t talk too loudly, or wear hoodies, or jaywalk, or walk home from the gas station with Skittles, or drive at night, or play with toy guns, or run or just BE.
So you see, Mr. Diggs. I get what you’re saying, and I know where you’re coming from. I sincerely wish the Utopia you are describing was a reality for us all. But it simply isn’t. Not right here. Not right now. I hope you learn to cope, somehow. But most importantly, I hope your son does too.