My Relative Black Card & The Principle of Ethnic Relations

I’m Black.

African American if you’re feeling extra PC today.

One of my fellow bloggers wrote a post a few months ago about Race and the Black Card and her possession/lack thereof and of course it got me to thinking. [You should definitely click on the link and read because it is a great piece of chewy, bloggy, intellectual goodness; I have no idea why I described it as chewy but I’m leaving it there] BUT if you don’t get the chance to read it, the synopsis is: she’s a black woman who has had her black card perpetually taken from her by other “more black” blacks and she’s tired of the stupid theory of the “black card” and she’s demanding it back.

For those of you who don’t know anything about a Black Card, its basically a social entitlement that black people bestow on other blacks and non-blacks. It’s comparable to the status of ‘being cool’ and can be revoked anytime someone feels it necessary to do so. It’s not a real card, well there is an American Express Black Card but I’m not talking about that. It’s supposed to be a measurement of how “black” an African-American is.

I completely understand her plight because I, and most of my long time friends, have been remiss of a black card for the majority of my life.  Do I think the idea of the ‘Black card’ is dumb? Of course. Why? Because it serves no real purpose and its only used to shove even more divides between people (particularly black people) for reasons that were made up by some group of people who weren’t that valuable and  basically had to create a way for them to be cooler or realer than others. It’s also referred to in some circles as a Ghetto pass.

I gave up on being a permanent cardholder of my Black Card because I just couldn’t win for losing regarding my ‘blackness’. In order for one to usually maintain possession of their black card one has to do things that are stereotypically deemed as “black behavior,” and if one did something contrary to those stereotypes it may be revoked by someone who has held truer to the aforementioned black actions. Now, any one with any sort of good common sense knows there is no specific actions or qualifications for being a member of a race. Meaning there are no particular actions one can take to become a member of a race. In America, if you’re born a certain race you are, from birth, inherently that race until you die. With that being said, any citizen of America could list off the behaviors that are considered to be ‘black’, and of course they are usually bad or connected with the lifestyle of the hood rat. The list sounds something like this, a real black person: talks loud, sounds ignorant, mispronounces their words, doesn’t read, does poorly in school, listens only to misogynistic rap music, is extremely aggressive/violent, knows how to fight, and is willing to fight at a drop of the hat.

Basically, the list describes an angry slave or, for those of you who are visually motivated, this guy:

Hide ya Kids, hide ya wife, ignorance is a'coming

I attended predominantly black schools from Pre-K through eighth grade. For the last four or five of those years, my peers labeled me as an Oreo [Black on the outside, white on the inside] because I read all the time, pronounced the ends of my words properly, sought to excel in school, and didn’t listen to rap music ALL the time. Now I’m not saying whenever I walked into a room someone yelled “OREO!!'” across the classroom, it’s just that when i got into arguments with people my propensity for things that was not deemed ‘black enough’ was one of the first things someone pointed out [well that and the darkness of my skin tone, but that’s another tangent for another day].  I was, and truthfully still am, a nerd and early in life I made the decision that if earning a Black Card meant being all those bad things than I was just gonna be a Black Card lacking somebody and that was fine…

….until I got to ninth grade where I switched to a predominantly white high school. All of sudden, I had a black card. Not only did I have a black card, got doggit I was a privileged member of the Black Card Society and I can say it was only because I was in an environment where over 90% of the people were white. So basically just because I was visibly black I was a black card owner, or at least that’s how the non-blacks saw it. To them I was down, and “with it” and hip and it was all because my skin color said so, but to the other, more ethnic blacks I was still the same Oreo that I had been prior to attending that school. At the end of the day, to one population I was black and to the other I was an Oreo. I looked the same, talked the same, and acted the same around both populations but was perceived in two very different ways.

What this contrast showed me was that it’s all relative. Levels of Blackness, just like most other social certifications, are completely determined by comparison. For example, I’m from New Orleans and if you know anyone from there you know we have a certain militant-ness about us that makes a seem a bit more wild or, for lack of a better word, hood  than others in the surrounding area and it’s mostly inherent to where we’re from. So if you take me from New Orleans and some other black person from say Fresno, California and place us side-by-side, I’ll probably be deemed the ‘more black’ of the two. But if you place me next to someone from say the hood of Philadelphia, the other person would probably be deemed more deserving of the black card.

Who is worthy/unworthy of the Black Card is a completely arbitrary and useless assessment, but I find it amazing that by comparison I could be deemed more or less black. Guess I figure why do we need such a measurement when all it does is draw us as a people, and as a human race , farther apart. I’m not gonna lie I have been a pointer of fingers on who was or was not black when I wasn’t the one on the chopping  block, but the older, and more educated, I’ve gotten the less I’ve involved myself in such futile and juvenile arguments. It’s a hard discussion to avoid because in the black race its such a prevalent theme and to avoid such assessments/judgement of others takes a concerted effort. I’m not here to reprimand anyone who has a ‘Black Card’ or who believes they know what black truly is, just shedding a little light on a pondering of mine. I know the theory of the Black Card will probably never go away, but I do wish that it would one day become affiliated with positive attributes such as a dedication to scholarship and academics, or the strength it takes to persevere in a nation where there are several political and social factors pushing against you. If those were the qualities that were deemed necessary to have a Black Card then I would be first in line to claim possession of this social pot of gold.

So my monacle-possessing and tea-sipping readers, what’s your thoughts on the Black Card and the arbitrary-ness of it all?

Peace and Love and Intelligence Abounding,


“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”- Ephesians 5:8-10


4 thoughts on “My Relative Black Card & The Principle of Ethnic Relations

  1. Love this. Definitely remember Ayana and I hashing this out months ago, and it’s a shame people still argue over this.

  2. “Guess I figure why do we need such a measurement when all it does is draw us as a people, and as a human race, farther apart?” Wise words, my friend. I completely agree with the aforementioned post. We need to stop worrying about such trivial things. And thanks for the shoutout!

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