Bruno Mars is Black…I could not care less what he calls himself, when I look at the picture of Mars juxtaposed to Barack Obama, to me, they could go for cousins.
You see, for all of my political insight and social erudition, there are certain aspects to Ol’ Hobbs that are extremely basic and “colored” by my experiences growing up in the Deep South.
I grew up in the part of Florida that is Dixieland, a region where there were two dominant races—Black or White—and folks either were assigned to one or the other. Being raised by parents who grew up in the Jim Crow South, and educated by them and teachers who also grew up in the Jim Crow South, I knew about the “One Drop Rule” long before I knew how to do long division. I, like most Black folks, also knew all about colorism, and how some lighter skinned Black folks, those so-called mulattoes, quadroons, octaroons with the “good hair,” may have had it easier in some respect than darker skinned blacks, but to racist southern whites, they were still considered ” high yellow niggers.”
Because of that, and being further schooled that race is a social construct that was and is used to promote systemic white supremacy and racism, such is how when I first watched “Imitation of Life,” I knew full well that “passing” was not just a figment of imagination on a TV screen. By the time I was in law school, when Tiger Woods started talking that “Cablasian” (Caucasian, Black, Native, Asian) shit, when Fuzzy Zoeller asked whether the Masters host committee would be serving “fried chicken, collard greens, or whatever the Hell THEY eat,” I knew that the “they” that he spoke of damn sure wasn’t no Asians or French-Canadians.
Which brings me back to Bruno Mars; some of the most brilliant folks that I know and respect on social media are arguing that because Mars does not identify himself as having African ancestry, that he should not be considered Black, thus making him a culture appropriator. Which is some bullshit, truly, because Mars, like many of us, probably can’t go past a couple-few generations within his ancestry. Mars has yet to grace Dr. Skip Gates’ show to delve deeper into his ancestry, but if he ever does, he may learn that the very Puerto Rican heritage that he is so super proud of is not just heavily influenced by Black culture, but is heavily mixed with Black blood–straight from Africa. Indeed, a National Georgraphic Genographic Report from 2014 broke it down by concluding that based on its study, “the average Puerto Rican individual carries 12% Native American, 65% West Eurasian (Mediterranean, Northern European and/or Middle Eastern) and 20% Sub-Saharan African DNA.”
Sub-Saharan, as most of us know, is where most Blacks captured and sold into slavery in the Americas and Caribbean come from. Just like I cannot tell you who any of my great, great, great, great grandparents and beyond were, I can look in the mirror and surmise that most of them came from Sub-Sahara Africa. At least the ones I count because I prefer not to acknowledge any White rapists who had their way with my Black female ancestors. But, get this, my preference not to acknowledge does not make it less so, and just like I have European blood in me, even though it is not visibly apparent and I choose not to acknowledge, Bruno Mars has African blood in him, even if he has chosen not to acknowledge it to date.
That said, I refuse to join the critics who would lump Mars into the Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Jerry Lee Lewis and Eminem bracket–white performers who got rich by using Black music and cultural styles. Indeed, one cannot steal what already resides deep within themselves…