2016 has been the year of R&B pop music dominating social media, the music industry, and the radio. With singers like Selena Gomez releasing the R&B pop infused “Revival” and its singles Good For You, and Same Old Love that dominated radio, Justin Timberlake (who is the originator of diving deep into black culture for profit) releasing a new single, Justin Biebers “Purpose” album and all of its singles dominating the charts, Ariana Grande with Dangerous Woman an album hailed for the maturity and sexiness in the singers image and music, Nick Jonas with his latest release, and Zayn Malik with the release of his debut solo album the trend of R&B infused pop is at an all time high. Likely so with any non black person with a teaspoon of vibrato the “He can come to the cookout” and “She black on the inside” jokes have been at an all time high with fans of these artists, but I for one will not be playing into that, because the year is 2016 and the “black card” distributor is closed.
Since I have been alive people in and outside the black community have always been trying to give artists they think act a certain way that impresses them a “black card” If a male or female pop singer sings with a voice that is slightly reminiscent to how black soul singers sing some people will try and say “They might as well be black” and this doesn’t stop with singing. Rappers like Eminem who approached black culture in a way some black people think was “respectful” and “genuine” (I disagree with this to the fullest extent) have been given honorary black cards for their music and attitude that gains them “respect” from black people. These non black artists through the test of time have been rewarded by some people in the black community with blackness for their work and to this day the next generation of music fans are still doing this with newer artists.
Handing out black cards in itself stretches far beyond just music. Plenty of black people will think just because someone is from the same ghetto as them, or because they talk and act a certain way, or because they are their friend that this person is “honorarily black” Non black (this means anyone who is not black, not just white people) who grow up around mostly black people or have black friends, or date black people, or act in a tough/intimidating manner will consider themselves “black on the inside” and will truly believe this feat is possible and some will go as far as to say it is who they are. Honorary blackness is something people claim in and out of the black community because they don’t view being black as simply a racial identity. They consider blackness an item. To them blackness is like a trophy or an achievement gained on their Xbox. Blackness has been so commercialized and appropriated by society that people in and outside of our community view blackness as an accessory. Like makeup or a bracelet blackness has been watered down into something that you can put onto yourself and not simply something that is who you are as a human being.
To put this in the nicest way possible nobody will ever be “honorary black”. Christina Aguilera can hit all the soulful runs she wants to hit. Justin Timberlake can sing in falsetto and glide across the stage like one of the Temptations all he wants. Ariana Grande can cover every Whitney Houston song she so pleases. All these new pop artists can make all the electro hip hop guitar diet trap trash for the radio to their hearts content. At the end of the day all of these people are not black, and no amount of musical attributes black people enjoy about them will ever make them become one of us. If you don’t struggle like a black person you don’t get to have a black card. Blackness is not an item you find in one of the Legend Of Zelda games. Blackness is not a trinket you dig up while building sandcastles on the beach. Why is it that black people are never honorary white? I grew up around a lot of Asians so where is my Asian card? Why don’t I get to be honorary Arab for all the Arabs that I have dated? This doesn’t work in reverse for black people because these identities are cultural to society and not a trend, product, or accessory. Blackness is not an attitude. Blackness is not a mood. Being black is who I am, and if you aren’t able to be treated the way I am treated in America, hunted the way my people are being hunted in the streets by police, locked in cages the way my people are locked away at astonishing rates like slaves, and oppressed by a system who demands we pull ourselves up from the bootstraps while setting up barriers in our communities and in the job and housing markets to make it incredibly difficult for us to succeed, you will never. be. black.