For those of us who have been wondering what it means to be "really black," John McWhorter is here with some impenetrable explanations. McWhorter is a scholar at the conservative Manhattan Institute and frequent phoner-in of columns to the New York Sun (seriously, today's is just him riffing on how much the play "Hairspray" sucks, for no apparent reason). In an essay on TheRoot.com, he takes on those backward-thinking idealists who reject the question of who is "black enough." What's McWhorter's groundbreaking formula for measuring blackness? Hint: It involves dance skills, Ebonics, and chicken!
The brown-skinned person implying their skin color renders the whole issue moot is leveling a coded challenge: "Are you saying that all black people talk like rappers and eat fried chicken?"
But this implies that there is no such thing as black culture in a legitimate sense. But there is - and it includes Ebonics and chicken!
Fair enough, or something. He goes on to add dialect, musical preference, "Bodily carriage. Culinary tastes. Dress style. Christian commitment. Juneteenth. And yes, skill on the dance floor." McWhorter's argument is that these don't count as stereotypes, because he's not arguing that all black people have all these traits— just those that are truly black! And here's how he puts his formula into action, as a practical guide:
Queen Latifah is blacker than Tiger Woods.
Alan Keyes is blacker than Barack Obama.
Jada Pinkett Smith is blacker than Colin Powell.
And, Michael Eric Dyson is blacker than me.