We blacks often say we come in all shades, shapes and sizes. But we come in such a variety that sometimes people who share some of our attributes are one African genetic marker away from being one-drop-ruled straight out of their born ethnic group. Who are these people and why do I wonder about the possible secret Negroes in their bloodline? … Um, in case you haven’t noticed, I have a secret incognegro fascination that began with Halle Berry’s abysmal performance in “Alex Haley’s Queen” to James Weldon Johnson’s excellent “Autobiography of An Ex-coloured Man.” Here’s my take on the phantom features that make you go “hmm … could be?”
In our race conscious society every now and then you’ll meet a person and go, “What the hell are you?” Maybe their lips are too thick or their nose too bulbous, or perhaps they bear more of a resemblance to Thurgood Marshall than William Rehnquist. Both are pale, but one is giving you five on the black hand side.
That’s the nature of our bizarre dance of race in America, where the whitest looking black man can be a “let’s separate for the United States and move back to Africa” rebel. It doesn’t matter. The one-drop-rule is still in effect even if it’s not enforceable by law anymore. You are what you look like and what on earth does a black American look like when they can virtually look like anyone and anything.
I’ve arranged a gaggle of potential passers to point out how fluid features that are perceived as “black” are amongst all Americas. Based on some suggestions from some Snob blog readers I have arranged a list of the most likely candidates who have a few secret Negroes in their bloodline. (We’re sneaky like that!)
Bob Barr, former Republican-turn-Libertarian candidate for president
I’ll be honest. The first time I saw Barr I thought he was an incognegro. Maybe it’s the fact that he rocks the ‘stache and when most white male professions dumped facial hair long ago. Yet black men continue to embrace their ‘staches, soul patches, Van Dykes and goatees.
And it didn’t help that he looks almost exactly like Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
It’s true. And political blog Wonkette totally agrees with me. Something is afoot I tell you! Check that man’s familial closet to find those secret Negroes!
Jeffrey Toobin, legal expert, CNN analyst and author
I’m just not going to accept no for an answer on this one. Of all the individuals on the list, next to Bob Barr, Toobin is the blackest looking white man I’ve seen in a long time. It’s ridiculous. The ever darkening light brown tan. The nose. The curly hair. Sure, he could just be an ethnic Jew or Greek or Middle Eastern, but screw that. He could be the brother of CBS’ Morning Show anchor, Russ Mitchell.
Pony up those secret Negroes, Toobin! You’re fooling no one!
Harry Connick Jr., jazz musician, New Orleanian, Black everything aficionado
I had to convince my father that Connick was not, in fact, a black man. We’d watched a commercial for some SUV featuring Connick talking about rebuilding New Orleans. It opens with just his voice, which caused the confusion. Papa Snob initially thought it was a pro-football player for the Saints. Connick has such a distinct black accent despite being a white man (as far as we know) that when he was revealed, cheerfully telling a group of mostly black people, “Who brought the crawfish?” my father was convinced that he had to be a black man.
Or at least part of a black man.
Physically, Connick doesn’t look black, although he does have pouty, thick lips, can dance seductively, sings and plays jazz with primarily blacks backing him up and loves all things New Orleans, his hometown, both black and white. He also can clap on the beat. I’ve heard that’s an issue for some white people. Connick apparently came out of the womb loving a rhythm section. And he’s sexy as hell, and while I find some white men attractive, when I saw Connick in concert a few years back in Bakersfield he really projected the sort of vibe you typically only find in some of the more mesmerizing black male soul acts of the 1960s. And the camaraderie between himself and the band is priceless.
Jason Momoa, model/actor, lover of Lisa Bonet
When he was younger and his hair was cut short he looked like a Hapa (which he is, being half white and half Hawaiian). But then he grew a beard and dreadlocks and inherited an entirely new racial identity. While I’m aware that Momoa is not a black person, I dare you to look at his before and after picture and not come away with a very Negro vibe about him. He could be the love child of Gary Dourdan and Lenny Kravitz.
Pete Wentz, musician, singer/songwriter, Fall Out Boy
OK, rocking an eyeliner that those emo punk-loving, goth, glam rock ladyboys envy on first glance may not seem to be Negro enough. But seriously? As fey as this may all seem I’ve seen feyer things pop up in the realm of black male sexuality. But the true indictment of suspicious blackness is this photo of Pete as a kid.
Other issues, his brother totally has an afro. Secondly, he has naturally curly hair he straightens. Everyone is tan except his white father. But his slight Negroid features can be chalked up to the fact that his mother is Hawaiian. As we’ve discussed on this blog before (specifically on the incognegro entry on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) Polynesians and African Americans can sometimes have eerily similar features.
Like Momoa, Wentz is a Hapa, half Hawaiian and half Caucasian.
My mother, who as far as we know did not pick up any phantom bloodlines from some Polynesians, often gets mistaken for Filipino. She even confuses the occasional Asian person. This happened to her a lot when she was a young woman, weighing only 95 lbs, often wearing her hair straight, possessing tiny, almond-shaped eyes and being only 5 ft tall. Since Asians from the South Pacific can get as dark as some black Americans, my mom was just the right color of golden brown to confuse the hell out of people.
She, of course, doesn’t see it. (She’s militantly Negro.) But I can’t look at an Asian woman over 50 and not think of her.
So who else do you think belongs on the list of “Passing, But Not Really?“