Commentary: Does Russell Wilson Need to Prove His Blackness?

Russell Wilson

Commentary: Does Russell Wilson Need to Prove His Blackness?

Seattle Seahawks QB finds he must fend off people’s criticism about how Black he is.

Published October 27, 2014

Here we go again, insisting on a litmus test that a man must take to prove his Blackness. No, I’m not trying to revisit a story that has historical roots back to slavery. But I also don’t want to let discussions of Blackness create an issue that shouldn’t be one.

We need to stop defining other people when each of us is not without problems of our own, Chris Murray, a friend and a veteran sportswriter, told me the other day.

“Can we ever get past saying someone is not Black enough?” he asked, his voice unable to mask his frustration.

Murray’s frustration was over the discussion about quarterback Russell Wilson, whose teammates with the Seattle Seahawks have called his Blackness into question. To some of them, Wilson isn’t Black enough.

“What does Black enough mean?” Murray said as he continued to question this sort of sociological mumbo-jumbo. “Do I have to butcher the English language or be a criminal?”

For some reason, Blackness has needed a definition. I can’t begin to explain why either. Oh, I know that Blackness is easier to understand when you see it – or so white people will tell us – in the behavior and the language of people like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross or 50 Cent.

That doesn’t mean a white person is right to look at Ross & Co. as the worst kind of Black people, but their crass behavior seems to speak to an urban hipness that many find compelling and uber-cool. Their successes fuel aspirations of boys and girls who want to be just like them.

Yet some of us don’t find inspiration in being like a Russell Wilson, a man who doesn’t seem to fit into the cool profile. He’s educated; he’s thoughtful; and, oh, he’s married to a white woman. (However, he filed for divorce in April.)

Does that kill his Blackness?

Tiger Woods might answer yes. Woods, once the best golfer on the planet, has run headlong into that sort of concern. So has Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, a man whose misguided political views most Black folks detest. They see Thomas, who married a white woman, as a man who got his but doesn’t want to see other Blacks follow the route he did.

But Blackness isn’t a political mindset. It’s a people, and those Black people who pass judgment on others who look like them are no better than the white people who judge all of us.

To not like Russell Wilson is a person’s right. To not like him because he doesn’t fit the stereotypical profile of what a Black man ought to be is wrong and the best example of ignorance a man like Wilson will ever confront.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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