I was one of many who received and forwarded this email at the beginning of the new millennium. (Was it circulated only to people of color?) This hilarious send-up actually serves as both a bonding device (some of the references, all of which weren’t quoted here, were very in-group) and an ironic statement about how difficult it is, in our day and age, to sort out who is or isn’t black. A particularly sarcastic comment, “check black if you’re white and date only blacks,” says a lot about this blurring of identity. I can only guess the intentions of the author of this message; for me, it points up the absurdity of race categories and the anachronistic character of the Census. Still, race is always an issue of power, and “checking black” is one of the few means for a historically oppressed people to have the agency and power to mobilize against racism.
KeywordsIronic Statement Black People Race Category African American Culture Oppressed People
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