I never really watch “The View” but every once in a while they do have interviews that are newsworthy and that get my attention. Conservative columnist and author Ann Coulter was on this week promoting her new book. While much of the post show media attention has relelated to Coulter’s argument that single mothers are to blame for most of society’s ills (certainly a ridiculous assertion), the part that peaked my interest the most was the discussion around Coulter’s segment of her book where she apparently takes some prominent Mixed people – President-Elect Obama, Halle Berry, and Alicia Keyes – to task for what she says is their convenient labeling of themselves as Black because it benefited them, even, as she put it, while ignoring their white mothers, who in each of their cases, raised them when their Black fathers were not around. Needless to say it is an interesting argument.
Equally interesting was the lead in to the Coulter segment when the hosts of “The View”, mainly Whoopie Goldberg, Barbara Walters, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, gave their own opinions as to why these prominent individuals and other Mixed people rightfully chose to call themselves Black, mainly because, as Whoopie put it, the world will view them as such, so that is what they are.
Now while I am not a fan of Coulter, as I think her opinion on this is based simply on arguing against anything and anybody liberal or minority, I do have to say that I also don’t completely agree with the women on “The View.”
I do believe Mixed people have a right to make their own determination about which part of their identity they most identify with and feel comfortable claiming, but I also think the opinion of “the world” has nothing to do with it. The minute we give in to the idea that “the world” is the decision maker on who and what we are, is the time we might as well accept all kinds of silly and often racist notions. And I do think there is something a bit wrong in walking around calling oneself as simply one thing, Black, all the while standing next to mothers, in these cases white mothers or grandmothers, especially if that mother raised you in a “white environment.” Don’t get me wrong, I do get the point made on “The View” that if Obama or Berry or Keyes stood up and said “I’m White” they would be laughed off the stage because they certainly don’t look the part.
But therein lies the rub. Halle Berry, Alicia Keyes. Barack Obama, and many others, have as much right to call themselves White as they do Black. It would be equally true. Or equally wrong. Regardless of what they look like. And what of all the other mixtures – Asian and White, Hispanic and Black, Indian and White? And all the others? Are they all supposed to wait for society to tell them what they are allowed to call themselves? Regardless of reality or how they feel or how they were raised?
As for Ann Coulter’s view, I think she got one key part wrong. I don’t think our society ever makes it “convenient” or “advantageous” as she insinuates, to identify as Black. I’m not sure which world she lives in on that one. Our society, and world, doesn’t give out too many bonuses for dark pigmentation, at least not compared to the ways we have been, and in some ways continue to be, penalized for it. So the fact that the three people she mentioned chose to call themselves Black may have a lot to do with the one drop rule being all powerful in most people’s eyes, but it certainly wasn’t a choice made of political or career expediency.
Well, I’ve been saying this issue was going to get a lot more attention thanks to Obama’s rise, and this brouhaha is just the beginning. As I’ve said before, I welcome the debate. It can only help us move forward. Below are two key segments of the show. If you haven’t seen it, check ’em out. Very entertaining, and a precursor of more to come I’m sure.