This column about Touré Neblett nearly got me fired

When I worked at the news website The Blaze from 2011-2014 I was, for the most part, allowed to self publish all of my blog posts. This one about then-MSNBC personality Touré Neblett, who has since been fired from the network, was written in 2013 and one of the finest pieces of literature ever published:

Here’s one racial topic MSNBC host Touré Neblett hasn’t broached and likely never will: His light skin may have been an advantage in his career, or even his personal life.

Neblett is obviously black. He has some semblance of an unkempt afro. And he talks a lot about being black and the racial discrimination black people face, with things like New York’s controversial “stop and frisk” program.

Twice on MSNBC Neblett has lamented the policy, which critics say allows NYPD to racially profile black men who aren’t guilty of anything other than being black and thus, suspicious-looking.

“We are so often guilty until proven innocent,” Neblett said in a Monday commentary. “Black people have long known that young black men are viewed as criminals, whether or not they are and black men often instill fear in others without even trying to. And that fear becomes our problem. … We are expected to be monsters until proven safe.”

He continued: “Living within a sea of people believing the criminal black man myth means you get the virtual black bar mitzvah where an intense interaction with police becomes a baptism into learning what society really thinks of you as a black man. …

“I have to go around mollifying everyone around me letting them know I won’t rob them and trust me, it’s tiring because no matter how good I am at that, I still know, I may end up dead.”

In September, Neblett claimed he has also been a victim of “stop and frisk.” Maybe he has. And maybe he has experienced people who are afraid of him just because he’s black. (Admittedly, it’s hard to believe that 130 lbs. men wearing form-fitting suits and skinny ties are unnerving in any way, no matter what color they are.)

But Neblett isn’t even that black. Literally, his skin is not that black. It’s actually pretty light. And his name is Touré Neblett. Without having seen him, you’d think the name belonged to a drag queen (of any race).

And as it turns out, among black people, there’s a thing called “colorism,” or “light-skinned privilege.”

A 2006 study of 100 black college students, half male and half female, demonstrated that most of them, when showed pictures of other black people, preferred ones with lighter skin.

Search the phrase “light-skinned privilege” online. The search renders scores of results of blog entries by black people commenting on other light-skinned black people who claim to share in the same struggles.

An excerpt of one such entry by blogger “Bougie Black Girl”:

Light skin Blacks who do not acknowledge [light-skinned privilege] are doing what racists White people do when they claim that we are all treated the same, that racism no longer exist or that they don’t see color. You are pretty much disregarding your darker brother and sisters experience. Here is a wake up call. No, we are not treated all the same. Dark skin blacks not only have to deal with racism but intraracism [sic] too.

Furthermore, a 2006 University of Georgia study found that a light-skinned black man is more likely to be hired over a competing darker-skinned black man who has a higher level of education.

So, what of Neblett? He’s about as mainstream as it gets. He’s written for the New York Times and Rolling Stone. He co-hosts a show on a major cable news channel. He has written that he sometimes goes to Martha’s Vineyard for house parties.

There are no doubt plenty of white people who’d like to have some of that success. Neblett beat them to it. But how many smarter, darker-skinned men did he beat, too?

He should talk about it.

The column was up for less than 24 hours before it was unceremoniously removed from The Blaze by the site’s editor, my boss at the time. He told me it was “emotionally insensitive,” which I’ve since gathered was his way of saying, “We’re way too pussy for this kind of stuff.” It was, however, posted on a black discussion forum where most of the commenters agreed with the column.


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