There has been a lot of talk on the Interwebz this week about the ESPN 30 for 30 sports documentary about the University of Michigan Fab Five. Jalen Rose, who played for Michaigan as a member of the Fab Five ,and who had a fairly sucessful career in the NBA and is now a basketball analyst for TV made comments alluding to the fact that at the time, he was jealous of Grant Hill and thought he was an “Uncle Tom”. Grant Hill responded via the New York Times.

Michele Grant over at Black n’ Bougie wrote a related post on Saturday that is a must read.

Those viewpoints were from a more macro level in my opinion and I’d like to look at it from a more micro level, at how intraracism and classism affect us and how we deal with our families and friends. I’ve never been called an Uncle Tom (at least not to my face) but I have been called ‘white girl” and told ” I talk too proper”. I’ve had members of my own family tell me I think I’m better than them because I live in Houston and they lived in a small town. I had my uncle’s common law wife of 30 plus years (prior to my marriage) tell me that since I wasn’t married, I might as well have a baby. o_O But I’m not immune to dysfunction. I have a half brother who has been to prison and even now, “hustles” to get by. He’s still my family. How could I not claim him??

I have a good friend who at our age, still gets told that she’s pretty for a “dark skinned girl”. I could go on and on with the intraracial baggage that black folks have to deal with. And it’s not just us. All cultures and races have similar types of intraracial beef. I can only speak about what I know about.

So my question to the commenters is: Have you had to deal with family or friends who are jealous or intimidated of the sacrifices and choices your parents made to better their family? If you have come from more humble beginings and have “made it out”, so to speak, how do you handle your family and friends who have not?? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Please share in the comments.


13 thoughts on “Uppity

  1. This is interesting because my kids and I had this conversation at dinner last night. Their hues range from light to dark and one of my teenage sons lamented on his sports buddies inablity to acknowledge “you are black if you are ligh or dark”. I was proud that he thought forward enough that this brand of foolishness has to stop. Subsequently I told him was crispy and when I graduated from a HBCU in the 1990’s the paper bag test was dead. It was funny because all 3 of my teenagers started laughing and said, “Dad I’m crispy too!”

  2. as for the Jalen/Grant situation my friends and I have debated it until we have agreed to disagree. I feel like the story was done to reflect how they felt as 18 & 19 yr old kids.. when you are a standout student athlete and basically #1 in your state, all of the big name schools pay attention.. unless you don’t fit their criteria.. it’s all good.. but to a teenager they don’t get that at all..

    I am the lightest of my mother’s 3 children. I have one cousin on my mother’s side who is lighter than me.. growing up my grandmother definitely gave us preferential treatment but at the time I didn’t know that.. I figured it was because I lived in the US and not in St. Kitts that she just wanted to make me feel special while I was there with her.. once i became a teenager I realized that wasnt the case especially with the way my other family members treated me.

    Moving on.. I am in a better place than my mother was trying to raise 3 children alone after my father passed. I sacrifice a lot for my children so they can have opportunities I never had as a child despite I’m a single mother. I have friends who have children and are 2 parent households who say I do too much for my children. I’m sorry there is never too much that can be done when it comes to education, arts, etc for my children. they will be well rounded and be able to take advantage of every opportunity presented to them. I’m happy the conversation was sparked by Jalen’s comments but I think most people are missing the bigger picture. They are harping on the fact that he said those things 20 years ago.. how about focus on what he has done since his life has changed… he has opened a charter school to help those kids similar to his upbringing so they could have the opportunities that weren’t afforded to him.. so while 20 yrs ago he felt Grant Hill was an Uncle Tom & jealous of his lifestyle.. he is pretty much the man he was jealous of back then…today..

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  4. Hmmm. We are the “goody-two shoes” of our family – college educated, children in wedlock, etc. I have to say, I never heard anything silly from my relatives who were not raised the way we were – I heard stuff from other kids. Didn’t care too much then, don’t care now.

    Jalen Rose said some silly things when he was 18 and has since apologized for them. You already know, I’m a firm believer in moving on. I don’t necessarily fault Grant Hill for his reponse, but I do feel as though he had an “advantage” as a 30 something year old man responding to something that an 18 year old boy said. Yes, I realize children can be held liable at 16, yada, yada, but the truth of it is that most of us have done/said things at 18 that we wouldn’t do/say now. The man apologized, that’s all he can do. I wouldn’t waste my time as a 38 year old responding to something someone said about me 20 years ago. Move on.

  5. I read OneChele’s post and wanted to comment so bad, but Disqus and iPhone don’t mix well. I truly thought about blogging about this very issue but didn’t want to recreate the wheel. Let me just say I got both sides. My mother was the black sheep of her generation – we were raised in a single female household, by our grandmother. For the most part, I had neither parent around. So to family members I was expected to follow my mother’s footsteps. We didn’t have much and I’ll admit I was jealous of my cousins that got the new school clothes, best toys, etc. Then at school – while I was one of the few black kids in my school that was NOT in a two-parent household – I was pretty smart. So I was accused of being an ‘Oreo’ by other black kids that had more money than me and both parents at home simply because I got good grades. Because of the way our classes were separated, I was usually the only black person in my class. In elementary school, that was cool – my two best friends were white. But as we reached Jr. High, that changed too. The one black girl that was in the ‘gifted and talented’ classes with me in Jr. High was my closest friend. Until I found out her mother didn’t want me to be her friend. I wasn’t ‘light’ enough. Her mother tried to get her to hang with another girl more.
    Needless to say, I was pretty mixed up as a kid. I didn’t know if I was ‘too good’ or ‘too bad’ for others – I just knew I wasn’t accepted. With that said, I couldn’t get with #teamJalen or #teamGrant because I could feel both of their pain. But I did think Jalen’s comment in the documentary without an explanation or disclaimer was very irresponsible. My husband and I had a long conversation about the documentary and Grant’s response. He was raised in an environment similar to mine, but he was an athlete – so he felt the same way as Jalen back in the day – hated Duke and their players. When I expressed my feelings about Jalen’s comment he said ‘I guess we were just raised differently’ to which I reminded him that we were raised in the same environment. The difference was education was my way out and sports was his. A lot of our youth still run around thinking it’s OK to be stupid. That being smart is acting ‘white’ – well, I can’t even put a color on it – dumb is cool nowadays. That is precisely why I wish Jalen would have clarified his feelings in the documentary. But then again, I doubt many teenage boys and girls even watched the documentary. Which leads me to think the outrage on both sides is really folks digging up old feelings – our kids probably don’t even know what’s going on, LOL. I know for me it opened a wound that I thought was healed a LONG time ago.

    • Forgot to answer one question. With the folks that haven’t made it out, I just meet them where they are. With the youth I try to stress education and use my life as an example that it can be done. I’m still met with the “it’s not cool to be smart” attitude at times.

      One more thing, I have had co workers refer to me as a house negroe because of my position, so it’s still going on in my adult years. It just doesn’t affect me the same.

  6. Every now and then I hear something about somebody being “too black”. I don’t believe in that BS! I also used to hear “you think you cute because you are light skinned and have long hair. Its all ignorance. Be it from family, friends or strangers. I am totally with Grant Hill! Jalen Rose sounded stupid then and stupid now! He could have easily said “those were my views then but not now”.

  7. I don’t deal with it at all. I avoid it like the plague. It’s probably because I move in circles where people are more like me than not. Also, I don’t really live near the sketchier family. That said, I have been told (by my educated uncle), that my friends are far more down to Earth than he expected. GTFOOHWTBS The reason he said it is because in his mind, he’s used his one degree to hold himself above everyone else.

    As for the Jalen/Grant thing, I find it funny that the documentary that was executive produced by Jalen didn’t have his context in it. The context came out AFTER a big deal was made about what he said. Did he think that would fly under the radar? Me thinks he did.

  8. Excellent post!
    I have family members and friends who tell Dee and I that we are “crazy for sending children to schools that cost when there are tons are free public schools”. We are also constantly accused of thinking that our kids are too good for public school.
    The list actually goes on and on because one side of my family (as well as my in-laws) simply refuse to understand the way we live or the sacrifices we make for our kids.
    The way I handle it? I’m quite raw. When the issue of school is brought up, I often mention that I don’t want my kids to have the struggles that their kids are having with broken English and repeating grade after grade. When finances etc (particularly us living on 60% of our income which they find odd) I shrug and say I never want to have to call relatives begging for money for a light bill, groceries, or a car battery as I often get calls.

  9. Excellent post, Tiffany.

    It wasn’t until I was older (late teens) that I was confronted by the pathology of low expectations within the black race. Tis true that to come from money (via education or inheritance), speak Standard English, etc., is to be seen as being black under suspicion. That is total and utter bullshit.

    Jalen Rose was as wrong as the days are long, both as an 18 yea-old and today. Yeah, I know he said he felt that way as an 18 year-old, but in most jurisdictions a 16 year-old can be charged as an adult and 18 year olds everywhere can vote and go off to war, so enough with this story about, ‘he was just a kid.’

    What’s more, he did not and still has not said enough to distance himself from his statements that Grant Hill and players of his ilk were Uncle Toms, so as far as I’m concerned, that’s how he feels today.

    Grant Hill was right to beast Rose in the New York Times and others who were to the manor born (relatively speaking) should also rise up and tell jealous poor people to go play in traffic.

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