Sorry, but I'm compelled to get a quick hit in on the story I've been waiting for the tweezers of journalism and sociology to finally grasp:
Black is not a race. Specifically, we have been wrong to maintain the idea of a discrete, unitary black race. Black or African-American is really an ethnic group, at best. The first nail in the coffin of the "one drop rule" that creates us as a race has just been driven.
So, check out the hefty coverage of the groundbreaking Pew/NPR poll discovering a sea change in black perceptions. And really listen to what the leading--really the only--black political analyst at NPR, Juan Williams, is saying about this.
Check the Pew poll itself here.
This is big stuff. It comes as the annual study contrasting black vs. white television viewing preferences (a study I used to write about every year for over a decade) finds so much conversion of tastes as to declare in the headline "One Big American TV Audience" It comes as the New York Times discovers that "black skater youth" is not an oxymoron. Check out the discussion in Bold As Love.
I'm really packing it in here, because I'm still vain enough to want to be one of the first to dig into the standout stat: 37% of African Americans polled say blacks are not one race anymore.
It is one thing when "US" more affluent and/or well-educated, over 40 blacks (like me) complain—often bitterly and ALWAYS in private and among ourselves—about the problem of "THEM" —the younger, poorer, less educated, hip-hop steeped black America— who don't share our values (or appear to have no values) but, unfortunately, share our skin color.
But it's quite another thing when a poll discovers that the 18-29 age group is even MORE likely (44%) to say they're not in the same race as us older folks. As Juan Williams points out this morning, the fight to free a unified black race has been a token of fatih for many, many black generations, especially the boomers who wanted to believe that deliverance had come to pass after the Civil Rights movement. Even as we moved to the suburbs and otherwise penetrated the mainstream by the 80's we always maintained the thin fiction of racial solidarity with those left behind in the projects that produced the rap/hip-hop culture that now claims hegemony over what it means to be black.
But when so many in that very younger hip-hop cohort seem ready to sue for separation, it's a watershed moment. Why? Imagine the moment when American Jews stopped being a "race," like the Irish-Americans before them. When all the Jews fortunate enough to find themselves in Scarsdale were comfortable believing they had more in common with the goyim neighbors than their distant cousins still living in the South Bronx or the Lower East Side. How the Irish became white isn't just historical fact, it's literally a book title. So is the story of how Jews became white folks, and what it says about race in America.
Yes, the Irish and the Jews were Caucasians, and the color-line was firm and all encompassing as the Great Wall of China then. But that was then. The color line just ain't what it used to be. Already, it no longer confines people of clear African decent who happen to also be Hispanic to the so-called black race. It no longer confines Tiger Woods or Derek Jeter, though in theory they are no less black than I am. It only nominally confines Barak Obama.
Yes, the door to opt out of an Irish or Jewish race was open much wider, and eventually taken off the hinges (which is why the self-identified American Jewish population continues to dwindle toward statistical insignificance). But the door to a new perception of black racial identity has long been open wide enough to escape for those who wanted to.
Many have literally done it by passing for white in broad daylight. But a great many more have been doing it in the dark of the privacy of their own homes and families for a very long time. Especially here in New York, where you don't have to look very hard to see Caribbean and African from Africa Americans consciously distinguishing themselves from black Americans.
There won't be a book "How The Blacks Became White." But there will be a work of history called "The End of the Black American Race." The first hot draft is all over NPR today, and many other media outlets near you. It should be in the New York Times, but their Pew poll story, borrowed from the AP, missed the lede, in my not so humble opinion.