CNN anchor and “Black In America” correspondent, Soledad O’Brien, recently released a new book entitled, The Next Big Story. In her memoir, O’Brien recounts several anecdotes from her years in the news business, including an unsettling run-in with Jessie Jackson.

Apparently, the civil rights leader didn’t think O’Brien counted as one of the network’s Black anchors. In a 2007 meeting, Jackon and O’Brien met to discuss the dearth of Black news personalities on CNN. O’Brien, who’s biracial, was rightly disturbed by Jackson’s comments. In an excerpt, she reminisces,

“Today he is angry because CNN doesn’t have enough black anchors. It is political season. There are billboards up sporting Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper. He asks after the black reporters. Why are they not up there? I share his concern and make a mental note to take it back to my bosses. But then he begins to rage that there are no black anchors on the network at all. Does he mean covering the campaign, I wonder to myself? The man has been a guest on my show. He knows me, even if he doesn’t recall how we met. I brought him on at MSNBC, then again at Weekend Today. I interrupt to remind him I’m the anchor of American Morning. He knows that. He looks me in the eye and reaches his fingers over to tap a spot of skin on my right had. He shakes his head. ‘You don’t count,’ he says. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I don’t count — what? I’m not black? I’m not black enough? Or my show doesn’t count?

I was both angry and embarrassed, which rarely happens at the same time for me. Jesse Jackson managed to make me ashamed of my skin color which even white people had never been able to do. Not the kids in the hallways at Smithtown or the guys who wouldn’t date me in high school. I remember the marchers behind me at the trial about the black youth/kid who beat the Latino baby. The folks that chanted ‘biracial whore for the white man’s media,’ even they didn’t even make feel this way. I would just laugh. Biracial, sure, whore, not exactly, white man’s media, totally! Whatever. But Reverend Jesse Jackson says, ‘I don’t count?’ “

After the meeting, O’Brien called Jackson to remind him of his comments. During their conversation he claimed not to know about her racial background. Convenient.

If anyone should know about the wondrous and mixed up history of Black folks, it should be Jessie Jackson. For him to deem Soledad O’Brien not Black enough speaks volumes about his mindset and his politics.

What does it mean when we strip our fellow brothers/sisters of their Blackness just because they don’t fit the conventional view of what we think it means to be Black?

Have you ever questioned someone’s Blackness or had yours questioned? Sound Off!

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  • jamesfrmphilly

    soledad’s black! who knew?
    she coming out de closet in order to get pub?
    i marched and fought in the CRM so some mulatta can get play?
    i don’t think so.

    • Mason

      She has always identified as black and while also identifying with her father’s heritage/

  • IntellBlackman

    Hispanic? What? The very second I laid eyes on Soledad I knew she had some black somewhere in her family. All you have to do is look at her “roots”. That is, the hair kind, not the Alex Haley kind.

  • As per usual these days, Jesse is way out of order. She isn’t black way back – her MOTHER is black – and I’m sure, more than black enough for Jesse.

    In fact, there she is. Is that black enough for some of the folks on here? If you are raised by a woman of that complexion (who had to go to another state just to get married to Soledad’s father)- and you don’t think you’re black, you would be one seriously messed up human being.

    Soledad is not. She knows what she is.

  • Remi

    The only way someone can be black is by having 2 BLACK PARENTS, nothing more nothing less. It’s all well and good a mixed raced person culturally identifying with one side more than the other but this does not change the fact that they are just as much NOT black as they are black. After all you don’t mix red and yellow (which makes orange) and call it red, do you? No.

    • caratime2

      If that were true, then most people who call themselves “black” in America would have to be re-categorized. No, their parents – or they themselves – aren’t 1st generational bi-racials, but they are the offsprings of a multitude of ancestors who were.

      What we “call” black in America, and what really is black – i.e. someone with 100% African bloodlines – are two very different things.

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