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Yvette Carnell: CNN’s Soledad O’Brien Isn’t Black Enough, But President Obama Is?


by Yvette Carnell

Funny thing. Right around the time Soledad O’Brien started buzzing about her “Black in America” special, entitled “Who is Black in America?”,  she was barraged on Twitter by purists, accusing her of not being black enough to have that conversation.

Lately I’ve been trying not to really comment on colorism because I think, no I know, it’s an antiquated discussion.

When Zoe Saldana was tapped to play Nina Simone, I spoke up because that selection represents a standard set by Hollywood, one which has all but eliminated darker skinned women from leading roles. And I would be the first to admit that Hollywood’s penchant for fairer skinned actresses,  which resulted in Saldana’s casting,  is at work in other vocations, including media (maybe even CNN, although I see no indication of that).

So I have no problem with anyone criticizing media, Hollywood, business, or whatever. What I will never do, and what I have a sincere problem with, is black people berating other black people solely based on the color of their skin.

There are certainly cultural distinctions between Ghanaians, Nigerians, Afro- Cubans, Brazilians, African-Americans and so on. That’s up for discussion. I have, previously, even made the argument that President Obama’s “up by your bootstraps” ethos is more accurately reflected in African immigrants than African-Americans. But Obama is still black, and so is Soledad O’brien.  Which is why I was stunned when one of the trolls who  dismissed  Soledad O’Brien as not black (actually calling her white) named President Obama as one of their most favorite people in the whole world. The only difference between O’Brien and Obama: One has darker skin than the other. And to allow that to be the standard for what is and  is not black in America is utter insanity.

Listen, Soledad has a rich history, which includes an Afro- Cuban mother and a white and Australian father, but most African Americans are not pure bread. That is our history. That  is our struggle. And anyone who cannot intellectually grapple with  that, who has some sort of purist ideal, who continually berates our history, or foments division within our ranks, should catch the first thing smoking back to “Mother Africa.”

I’m not going to go into what was said or by whom. I don’t feed the trolls. I don’t give them light to see or air to breath. I certainly don’t give them a place to shine. If you’re determined to know, just check O’Brien’s twitter feed from this morning. My point is that, with the fiscal cliff on the horizon,  African-Americans are facing serious issues which we need to get a handle on. We need each other.  And in order to help each other,  we’ve got to stop hating each other.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.

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