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Soledad O’Brien Asks ‘Who Is Black In America?’
One million times and counting. That’s how often CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien says members of the black community have likely discussed the issue of “colorism,” the largely unspoken system in which persons with dark skin are regarded or treated differently, depending on how dark they are.
Yet still, it’s a topic she’s tackling this Sunday in a follow-up to her now five-year-old “Black In America” series.
While continuing to explore the dynamics of race and its impact on family, community and jobs across the U.S., O’Brien answers the question, “What makes a person black?”, herself. “I would say I’m black because my parents said I’m black. I’m black because my mother’s black. I’m black because I grew up in a family of all black people. I knew I was black because I grew up in an all-white neighborhood. And my parents, as part of their protective mechanisms that they were going to give to us made it very clear what we were,” O’Brien told Yaba Blay, Ph.D., creator of the (1)ne Drop Project, a multiplatform endeavor that hopes to challenge perceptions of black identity.
O’Brien also follows high school students Nayo, who has a black mother and a white father and grew up mostly in a white community, and Becca, who has Egyptian blood and wants to know why people of North African descent are not considered black.
Focusing on the present-day impact of colorism (rather than the country’s long history of problems in the area), O’Brien believes progress has been made. “Look at my parents and you can see how far we’ve come,” she told the NY Daily News. “There’s work to do, but I think we’re moving forward.”