RGIII, ‘Cornball Brothers,’ and the Blackness Code
The new enforcers of racial authenticity use racist logic to define blackness.

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III


Lee Habeeb

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (RGIII, as he is known) has a problem. It turns out that some black commentators, and probably some black elites, don’t think he is black enough — because he dared to publicly state that he didn’t want to be judged solely by his skin color as an NFL quarterback.

Last Thursday morning on First Take, ESPN’s Rob Parker uttered a comment for which he was later fired, although he probably only said what some African Americans think but don’t publicly express: “My question is, and it’s just a straight, honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”

I’d never heard the term before, so I did a quick search and landed at Here is the definition I found there:

Cornball brother: An African-American man who chooses not to follow the stereotype . . . life choices include marrying white women, being a Republican, and not being ‘down with the cause.’

UrbanDictionary also lists “corn dog brother” as a related term and gives this example in its definition:

Leroy is a Republican who listens to country music, enjoys golfing on weekends, and drives [an] eco-friendly car. He is a corn dog brother. 

I love it when I get an example with my definitions!

Little did Parker know, he was performing a public service by reminding the country of the interesting concept of the not-black-enough brother.

And you wonder why there are not more black Republicans?

Things got more interesting as Parker continued his riff.

“He’s black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause,” Parker continued. “He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.” Parker admitted that he needed to learn more about Griffin’s personal life before he could accept him as authentically black. “I just want to find out about him,” he said.

It could be a comedy routine on Saturday Night Live — the notion of a black man standing before some kind of Blackness Panel to determine if he’s black enough. What would be the qualifications? Who would the questioners be, and what would they ask? How would the scoring work, and would there be a talent requirement? Singing and dancing, possibly? And an oath of black allegiance at the end?

A comedy routine is exactly what this should be. But it is a reality that black people face, although I hope it affects only a thin minority of African-American commentators and elites.

But there are those words on, those made-up, ugly words.

 “I don’t know because I keep hearing these things,” Parker explained. “We all know he has a white fiancée.”

There you have it! Exhibit A for expulsion from the Blackness Club. What kind of authentic black man falls in love with a white woman?

“Then there was all this talk about he’s a Republican,” Parker continued. “There’s no information at all [about that].”

He is marrying a white woman, and he might be a Republican? That’s automatic disbarment from the Blackness Club. And a lifetime pass to the Cornball Brother Hall of Fame.

Parker finished his rant with this observation about another not-so-black black man: “Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, ‘I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me black.’ So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods.”