Tom Jones wants to find out if he’s black? Fine, start doing activist work

The true story here, the thing I as a young black man want to know, is what you plan to do after your test?

Carl Anka
Tuesday 03 November 2015 13:17
Tom Jones in 1976
Tom Jones in 1976

Tom Jones wants to take an ancestry test to find out if he’s black.

Tom Jones wants to find out if he’s black because he has a low voice and curly hair.

Really look at those two sentences.

The 75 year old is on the the press tour from hell at the moment, trying to plug his new book, and, after revealing a feud with Engelbert Humperdinck in NME, making controversial comments about gay people in The Big Issue, he’s now told The Times he wants to test his DNA for any black ancestry.

“A lot of people still think I'm black. When I first came to America, people who had heard me sing on the radio would be surprised that I was white when they saw me. Because of my hair, a lot of black people still tell me I'm just passing as white. When I was born, my mother came out in big dark patches all over her body. They asked if she had any black blood and she said she didn't know. I'm going to get my DNA tested. I want to find out.”

Take out the name, look at the age, and “75 year old man wants to find out if he’s black” is fine. It’s a non-story. You can possibly even bring yourself to overlook the fact he wants to do it because Tom uses two very stereotypical identifiers of blackness as reasons as to why he might be black. It’s an old man making a clumsy offensive conversation about race, following making clumsy offensive conversation about gay people. Someone collect their grandfather, he’s had one too many brandies and let’s all get on with it.

But the true story here, the thing I as a young black man want to know, is what you plan to do after your test?

It’s 2015 and I am tired and weary of white culture figures trying to cosy up to black people when there is money to be made, and then disappearing when there is work to be done. Why is Tom making such as statement about his ancestry now, when he has a book to sell, and not a moment before? That Mr Jones frequently at length tells us about his time meeting Elvis only adds layers to this story, for Elvis himself is THE great pop culture profiter from black music. Is Tom going to follow in his hero’s footsteps by making money off the black experience and then sod off? Or is he going to do something with this new search for ancestors.

So I will give Tom the benefit of the doubt. For now. He can feel free to take his ancestry test. Feel free to make the results public. But, now you’ve make this public, now you believe that you think you may be black just because you have a deep voice and curly hair, I want you to go out there and educate yourself. I want you to go out there and educate others. I want Tom Jones to learn what “sounding black” on the phone and the radio means when you are trying to get a job.

I want Tom Jones to listen to black men’s stories of how they learn to remove the bass from their voice when in the office so their superiors are less intimidated by them. I want Tom Jones to go out and learn about black hair, it’s history, it’s strength, its power as a political statement. I want to see him call out publications for saying Blue Ivy needs a weave. If Tom Jones wants to find out if he’s black. I want him to find out what being black in 2015 is like. I want him to get angry at the inequality, I want him to realise for how long he’s profited off black music and black culture. And I want to see him try to give something back.

This is a rare opportunity for Tom Jones to eclipse Elvis by being a black ally. I hope he chooses to take it.

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