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If not Black, then what?

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Is this really a blog that I should write? I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I’m doing it.

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If you haven’t been following pop culture for the last 10 years, there is a very influential man named Donald Glover. Donald Glover is a famed tv writer and producer, actor and musician. He made his first “bag” as a writer on the hit NBC show 30 rock. He famously boasted on a later record titled I be on that - “When I wrote for 30 Rock, I was only 25”.

Photographed by Tyler Mitchell

It is hard to sit and watch the internet burn and itch over Donald Glovers latest interview with himself. I personally found it thought provoking. The fact that interviewee is also the interviewer adds extra meaning to every question and statement he chooses to include. We know for certain that these are topics he felt wasn’t being addressed by the Jimmy Kimmel's of the world. At the top of he asks himself.

Yeah, so first question, why’d you want to do this?

I guess I don’t love interviews and I asked myself, “Why don’t you like interviews?” And I think part of it is that the questions are usually the same. This way I can get questions I usually don’t get asked.

This interview is likely to spur many conversations about Zendaya, David Burd, and Farming. But, the part that has the internet up in flames specifically relates to a “weird” response to his own question about Black women.

  1. Donald understands that upon publication millions of people will be reading instantly.

  2. Donald Glover has no control over the race of the people who are reading, just as much as you have control over your own race.

There are lot of interesting tidbits in the article that expand our understanding of Donald Glover. For instance did you know Donald Glover has a pregnant cow? Did you know he has no regrets? Did you know the love of his life is a white woman? That’s a record scratch moment for a lot of people.

Donald asks himself.

Are you afraid of Black women?

Why are you asking me that?

Reading this text is a lot like reading a text. It is hard to extrapolate any sort of tone. That is why that innocuous text your co-worker sent to the client is going to delay that already delayed payment by three more weeks.

When Black people see a Black man dating a white woman we all secretly think “What happened to this brother? Where did he go wrong? Is he in the sunken place?” This is a conversation that we actually have. In retrospect this conversation probably started gaining serious momentum after the savage murder of Emitt Till. There’s a storied weight that surrounds interracial relationships. It should not be taken lightly.

With this interview Donald Glover has exposed our aforementioned 'secret conversation'. He know’s behind his back, Black people are questioning the choice he’s made for the mother of his children. Questioning his commitment to Black people, exclaiming “How are you going to love Black people, when you can't even love a Black woman?”

Guess Who (2005)

When dissecting the original Guess Who starring Sidney Portier, you realize why the 2005 remake switched race of the 'to be married' couple. In order to watch the Guess Who of today, Black men would have to wear a hat and sunglasses to the theatre. White women would have to tell their husbands and fathers they're staying over at a friends. The Closet Relatives to Guess who is Jordan Peele's Get Out. Judging by it's success this film seems to be in line with our current appetite today.

Get Out: 2017

Donald pokes the bear further saying

I feel like your relationship to them has played a big part in your narrative.

I feel like you’re using Black women to question my Blackness.

This is the part we have to unpack. I imagine celebrities who are pro-Black with white wives feel a certain since of un-comfortability in public. They know what the Black public is thinking. Donald claims that Black girls didn’t like him growing up. The honest truth is there were definitely Black women who would have dated Donald Glover then and would date him now. So we have to refocus on the question. What is Blackness? What is Blackness when in proximity to whiteness? What is Blackness in proximity to Blackness?

In America your Blackness is subject to approval. It can be verified and revoked at any moment. Joe Biden thought he was speaking this language during his campaign trail. But he doesn't have a black card. That was major campaign gaff.

In this space we’ve cultivated the idea that someone can be granted a Black card. Many tried to revoke Ye’s Black Card when he announced his support for Donald Trump. It took me 17 years to earn my Black card; others might say I’m still driving on a permit.

Martin Luther King
Me at the "Get off Our Necks March" on Washington

The day this interview was released is the same day that Ketanji Brown Jackson was elected to the Supreme Court, and only two weeks after Will Smith smacked Chris Rock on live TV. Both of these events invoke conversations about Black Women. And now with Donald Glover we have another entry.

If you champion Black people while currently dating a non-black person are you still Black? Donald Glover uses his podium to make a statement. The underlying question asks to what extent we will we protect Black men? His entire dating history and rap catalogue are now being pulled up for review. The conclusion will be written in sand: if a Black man is not dating a Black woman he does not deserve protection. And if he's made any disparaging comments or negative portrayals of Black women he should be left out in the sun. But, what happens to Black men who objectify women in music?

These are all conversations I can only assume Donald Glover wanted to have with us or at least wanted the public to have with each other. Maybe he’s getting ahead of a potentially embarrassing conversation, or maybe he’s genuinely asking himself if he’s afraid of Black women. What is sure is that Donald Glover is taking responsibility for his identity and his mind. Which is why the response on the internet is a bit ironic. We’ve been preaching how important it is to take control of our narrative. Who has more control than the editor in this instance? There’s no way Interview Magazine was telling Donald Glover what to keep or cut in this interview. He comes off as unafraid more so than egotist.

He say’s “I feel like you’re using Black women to question my Blackness.” If you read between the lines Donald just said “You do know that I am Black, right?”

Kanye West and Donald Trump

This world continually wants to define Blackness. Black people do it too. Who gets a black card and who doesn’t? Donald wants to have a conversation with the public about Blackness, and frankly I do too. One can only assume that is why he included this question, and why I’m writing this blog post. He may play coy school boy but his nerdy temperament is exactly why he famously wrote “Culture shock at barber shops 'cause I ain't hood enough / We all look the same to the cops, ain't that good enough?” on the 2011 record Hold You Down.

This interview reminds me how interesting Celebrity is. Black men but especially Black male celebrities who genuinely love their white partners have been afraid to have this conversation publicly. It exposes a deep and serious concern in our community. While Donald Glover feels the eyes of society peering in on him curious if he might be in the sunken place, he chooses a proactive stance.

Donald Glover described himself as modern day Willy Wonka. Like Willy Wonka, Donald has also created a factory where ideas can be tested and put to market. When we read the interview and conclude “this is what happens when you tell a man he’s a genius too many times.” We are discounting the contribution, the attempt at the conversation the art piece is wanting to start. Artists allow us to have conversations about ourselves. Celebrity artists allow us to do this en masse.

Are we using Black women to question peoples Blackness? Is there space for using Black women to question peoples Blackness? Judging by the direction the conversation is going this will likely all get lost in the noise. And, we can mostly likely attribute the spectale to the format in which Donald has delivered his commentary.

Photographed by Tyler Mitchell

Occasionally, artists put out work so that they can process a feeling or thought they have. This is how some artists process their own feelings, and thus how we process our own feelings. At the top of the interview Donald claims he’s doing this because the regular interview tours don’t go deep enough. However I don’t think he actually wants to answer the question “Are you afraid of Black women" on TV. Which is why he asked the question and answered it in one stroke. Given his answer he wants to talk about Blackness and his experience with the Black Card. Can you be pro-Black and date a white person? Donald is proof that this question has yet to be answered for this generation.

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