On my way home from delivering food to my under the weather mother last Saturday, my Twitter brother, Jordan, at me on a tweet referring to “the cookout”. As soon as I saw his tweet, I knew I was going to write a thread about “The Cookout”. When I tweeted back that “The cookout” is today’s Brown Paper Bag Test, he asked, “what is the brown paper bag test?”
The Brown Paper Bag Test was a barometer used for recruitment into the National Panhellenic Council of fraternities and sororities of Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Mainly, the sororities.
According to the test’s logic, if one’s skin color matched, or was lighter than, the color of the bag, they were accepted into the organization. Rejected, if darker. To provide context, the Paper Bag Test was the extension of the “field” vs “house” slave dichotomy. The premise was that slaves with fair, or light, complexion, would be in the house with the plantation owner. In some cases, it was due to them being the lovechild of said owner and one of his slave “mistresses”.
This meant they were viewed as the term, “exceptional negro”. The skinny that has been passed down was the “gold standard” for slaves. This either put the “exceptions” on the pedestal or in the crosshairs of their counterparts on the surface. However, the “exceptions” were considered “too black” to be fully accepted by their owners. Shunned in some cases, in part to the family’s bloodline being mixed with slave blood.
“Black Victim To Black Victor” Book by Adam B. Coleman
This gave birth to a mindset dead set on accumulating power. This power was to be achieved by those impacted negatively by the denial of white acceptance and their complexion would be the tool utilized to achieve that goal. Unbeknownst to those with this mindset, the power inflicted on them by their owners was based on inferiority.
The application of the Brown Paper Bag began back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the measure of melanin became the deciding factor of whether one would be granted access to exclusive elite events. According to legend, European descendants exercised this party admission in New Orleans, a place where African, European, and Indigenous cultures coincided peacefully compared to other places, which explains Creoles.
At these parties, the rule went if one was white, they were a shoo-in. Anyone not white had to take that test. Mixed, light-skinned usually made the cut. Dark skin got the gift of being on the outside looking in. The “whites” were first class. Everyone else, coach. Meaning, if not for the light melanin, they’d be trash because they’re negro.
Nevertheless, they were looked at as the exceptional “negro” because their skin matched, or was lighter than the bag. This later migrated to Atlantic United States institutions, most notably Ivy League Schools and Historical Black Colleges and Universities. Once it got to schools like Howard University, the rule was tweaked. Those of light skin was first class. Those who were not had to pass the Brown Paper Bag Test.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the sorority of Kamala Harris, the first “black” woman to serve as President, Vice President, mind you, of the United States, are infamously known for using the Brown Paper Bag test for intake purposes. Please note that Alpha Phi Alpha was founded at Cornell University, an Ivy League school, and Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded at Howard University, a Historical Black College and University.
Am I putting down these organizations? No. I’m just making a link to the migration I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Folklore says that the rest of the Pan Greeks, Delta Sigma Theta and Omega Psi Phi, for instance, were conceived in response to recruitment practices of the Alphas and AKAs (most notably, the AKAs) with emphasis on ‘folklore’.
Light-skinned black women tend to be AKAs. Deltas, like my late Godmother, were a darker brown. Even the movie “School Daze” delves into this entrance methodology. Once these students graduated, they went back to their communities to set up shop for their careers. The Brown Paper Bag test followed, leading to repercussions that still reverberate in Black America.
Like their European-born supremacist fellows, those within the black community began judging each other by skin color. The lighter your skin, the favorable you were, and the darker you were, the more unfavorable you were seen. This viewpoint even started the “Light skin is in” trend.
I was born in the 1980s and I remember how heavy the trend ran in that decade, right up until Nino Brown plunged a blade into Kareem Akbar’s hand in 1991’s “New Jack City”. From the R&B group, “DeBarge”, reporters Bryant Gumble and Ed Gordon, singers like Pebbles and Al B. Sure, to thespians like Sabrina Le Beauf (Sondra from The Cosby Show), it was well known that America made it appear that light skin was exceptional.
So, Black America made it be their crème de la crème. America’s requirement of beauty had always been viewed as white skin, which brings to mind the white and black doll exam. Black America’s “light skin is in” is the requirement’s derivative. But how does all of this explain “The Cookout” being today’s Brown Paper Bag test?
Remember The “field” vs “house” slave dichotomy that created the belief that the slave in the house was fully accepted by the plantation owner, though, in actuality, they were treated marginally better than the field slave because their light complexion made them the exceptional “negro”? How the usage of the Brown Paper Bag made mixed attendees with light-skinned at the New Orleans parties acceptable? How the Brown Paper Bag rule was tweaked to make the lighter shade of black the first class for all organizations on the HBCU campuses? The “Cookout” determines how exceptional a “negro” you are if you’re invited into it. But you better get “Woke” first.
“Woke” is a white liberal ideology meaning to recognize and call out the perceived racist nature of the United States at every chance possible. It came as the consequence of the 2016 Presidential Election results, which saw former President Donald Trump, not former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, become the country’s 45th president.
Throughout all liberal mediums, President Trump was advertised as being the biggest bigot the country had seen thus far. If you let Liberalism tell it, his win was the indication of a country draped in bigotry. #StayWoke and #WhitePrivilege became hashtags as a result of a Democratic candidate losing an election that was rigged in their favor.
So, rappers like Bun B, David Banner, Snoop Dogg, and T.I., programs like “The View” and “The Talk”, and television shows like the reboot of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, have become spokespersons of marginalized “African-Americans” and the narrations of the shaming of “White privilege”.
But how does all of this relate to “The Cookout”?! Easy. “The Cookout” is the exclusive elite event where everything discussed is the need to dismantle a system formed for the advancement of White Supremacy by White Supremacists. In order to be invited, one must be liberal white or the “exception”. If you’re white, you’re an immediate shoo-in.
Think I’m lying? Look at how the rappers in the aforementioned paragraph reacted to Eminem’s BET “The Cypher” performance in 2017. Let me not forget how Shaun King, Rachel Dolezal, Michael Rapaport, and our current president, Joe Biden, immediately get first-class treatment at the “Cookout”.
Black people like Jemele Hill and LeBron James would be like Colin Kaepernick, the “exception”. But Colin Kaepernick is biracial, you’d say. You’d be correct. The idiotic Jim Crow rule states “if you have one drop of black in you, you’re black”. So according to that logic, that makes him black. And he’s woke!
Just like Barack, Kamala, Nichole Hannah Jones, and Trevor Noah, to name a few and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is what’s lost on the “exceptions”, the irony that “The Cookout” was also formed by that same system they call to be dismantled.
This all began with the failed social construct of everything ‘white’ being superior. We know this to be White Supremacy. And it sits on the foundation that is the fear of losing the desired position that was not righteously obtained. So, the deck was stacked in favor of the fearful. This is what inferior people do to feel like they’re in power. They stack the deck in their favor against others who they feel, or know, are better.
Yes, our skin folks were subjected to that ideology. However, some never subscribed to it as they chose to forge their own path. Despite the punishment suffered for doing so, they excelled. For example, the rebuild in the aftermath of the Tulsa Massacre.
My late Uncle Eric wrote a poem in his black militant days called “Take It Back and Make It Black”. The poem explained how to make black versions of everything considered “white”. This is what our skin folks did once they became subscribers of White Supremacy. Took it back, made it black, and managed to pass it down to generation after generation. This is how we got to “The Brown Paper Bag Test” and why we have “The Cookout” today.
As I have tweeted on many occasions, you don’t have to be white to be a White Supremacist.