Forget about everything else. And by “everything else” I mean the conversations about what Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry means. And the conversations about what “means” means. And the conversations about whether Markle qualifies as black. And the conversations about whether that’s her choice to make. And the conversations about whether we should feel anything but sadness about her marrying into an imperialist empire.
Instead, I want to focus on what’s really important and what really matters to the world. And by “the world” I mean me. And that’s that there are real, actual black people who, until Meghan Markle’s ethnicity became news and the conversations about her “level of blackness” occurred, had absolutely no idea that she has quite a bit of black in her. And I’m not talking about the people who just had no idea who she was but, instead, the people who’d seen pictures of her and who’d seen her on TV and couldn’t detect all that blackness and delicious negrosity bubbling through.
I assumed, wrongly, that detecting blackness—even in trace amounts—was a superpower all black people possessed. It’s a generally useless superpower—I guess it best comes in handy when deciding which of your co-workers would be the best spades partner—but it’s a superpower nonetheless. If the Flash is fast and Spiderman can do spidey shit, we can ascertain the nigga (and yes, “nigga ascertaining specialist” is totally going on my new batch of business cards).
I was so confident in this collective superpower that I wrote about it two years ago.
It doesn’t matter if you have one drop or a KFC bucket full of Zulu blood. We see Black down the hall. We see Black in the mall. We see Black across the street. We see Black across the tweets. Shit, we see Black before Black sees itself. And sometimes even when Black refuses to see itself.
Somewhere in America today a Black person is passing for White. And he’s been able to fool the people at his job, the people at his church, and the people in his girlfriend’s family. And that Black person is going to be in the same supermarket aisle as another Black person. And that Black person is going to take one look at him and think “Nah, bruh.”
But now my entire world is upside down. I thought I knew y’all niggas, but apparently I don’t.
How does this even happen? How can a black American see a picture of Meghan Markle and not instinctively see a clear ancestry full of hog maws and hot combs? THE HOG-MAW-AND-HOT-COMB RESIDUE IS CLEARLY THERE! How can you see her face and not immediately know that someone in her immediate family has felt so much social pressure to pretend to know the words to the second verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that they invented a whole new second verse—with words and rhythms that sound vaguely like the real words and rhythms—that they sing when the song comes on?
How can you watch her on TV and not be 100 percent certain that she has at least one uncle with a first-degree burn on his chest from that time he tried to fry whiting while rocking a robe and some house shoes and he got distracted by a dunk on SportsCenter and lost his focus and the grease popped him between his nipples?
Anyway, for those who weren’t able to ascertain the blackness in Meghan Markle, I have two questions for you:
- Who raised you?
- What do you have against hog maws and hot combs?