I have this amazing gift. It's called "blackdar," and it enables me to tell whether someone is African-American without even knowing anything about them. To be honest, I don't know where I got the skill. But wherever I did, I can pass somebody on the street and just instantly know.
Like that guy from Saturday Night Live? That Kenan Thompson? That guy is definitely black, no doubt about it. He gives off all the signals.
And Missy Elliot? You better believe she's black.
I've had this power since I was a kid. Once, when I was maybe 10, I saw Sammy Davis Jr. performing on television, and I just said to myself, "I bet that guy's black." Well, a little later, his autobiography came out and—kaboom! I was right! And you remember in the '80s, when Bill Cosby got into a whole flap with NBC about an anti-apartheid slogan on The Cosby Show? Well, I had him pegged years before that. I saw him on The Tonight Show once in the '70s and thought to myself, "That guy's as black as the last banana."
And why do you think that Roots mini-series felt so authentic, so convincing? Those actors weren't just pretending to be black…. they were black. Yes, even LeVar Burton—black, black, black!
I could go on and on. Did you ever watch In Living Color? Oh, man. That show was an enclave. We're talking Chocolate City. The question on that show was, who wasn't black? Not many, let me tell you.
Having blackdar is an instinct either you have or you don't. Even so, there are little telltale signs to look for that can tip you off as to whether somebody's black. There are certain ways of dressing, walking, and talking that can give it away. And, of course, where the person lives. For example, there's an area in San Francisco that's almost entirely black. Same thing in New York. Los Angeles has a black part of town, too. So, if you meet somebody and they tell you they live in one of those places, chances are pretty good that they're black.
Okay, so my blackdar is not 100 percent infallible. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, it fails me. Like with Mariah Carey. At first, I was positive she was black, but now I'm not so sure. And that guy on the Yankees, Derek Jeter. I'm pretty on the fence about him, too. But, like I said, that's the rare exception. Almost always, I'll look at a person and immediately know for sure whether they're black, like, say, Jesse Jackson, or not, like Peter Jennings.
Last week, I was at the mall food court with my friend Demetrius. The two of us were just sitting there, having fun watching people walk past and trying to pick out who's black. As we're talking, this obviously white guy at the next table overhears us. So he turns to us and says, "How are you guys so good at that? Is it because you yourselves are black? Are you?" I just told him, hey, that's none of your business.