Mathew Knowles, father of Beyoncé, Solange, Nixon, and Koi, has written a book, “Racism: From the Eyes of a Child.” The marketing thus far seems to be designed to either dissuade people from reading it or make them so mad they can’t help themselves. Among the highlights are that he “only dated white women or very-high complexioned black women that looked white.” Adding fuel to the fire he said, “I actually thought when I met Tina, my former wife, that she was white. Later I found out that she wasn’t, and she was actually very much in tune with her blackness.”
He went on to describe the two years he attended Fisk University after transferring from a white school and said, “They had a colorism issue there. I was in the last class where they’d take out a brown paper bag, and if you were darker than the bag, you couldn’t get into Fisk.” In the book he describes, “eroticized rage,” in which white women was his way of “getting even or getting back,” at whom I’m not certain.
In full disclosure, I knew Mathew Knowles, we played on the same basketball team at Fisk in his Junior year while I was a Freshman. We were not close. On a twelve-man team there were various cliques based on age, position, playing time, hometown, or just disposition. We were in different fraternities, had different majors, we never hung out, even on road trips. We never didn’t get along, there was just little we had in common that caused us to bond. As basketball teams go, we had very little dissention, we had a good team with unquestioned leadership from the two Senior guards. We won a lot of games, finishing 26–4, going to the NCAA Tournament. Life was good on the basketball team and Mathew and I were teammates… but not close. In the picture below, Mathew would be in the front row on the right, I’m third from the left on the top row.
I must disagree with his description of Fisk. I was there with him both of his years. Certainly, I’d heard of the brown bag test that was said to have been in use at one time at Fisk. But his class which he says was the last of those tested had beautiful women of all hues. Flipping through the yearbooks of those years, there is no sign the paper bags hadn’t been thrown out long ago. I don’t know why Matt chose to characterize his years at Fisk as he did. Maybe that’s his recollection but it wasn’t true.
What he says about his own upbringing and what his mother may have instilled in him as a child may well be his truth. He says his mother told him, “Don’t ever bring no nappy-head black girl to my house.” He says that message was reinforced not only in hometown Gadsden, Alabama but throughout the Deep South.
I’m not saying colorism doesn’t exist. I know people today whose choices are informed by their skin tone as much as their environment. But I think there exists an individual responsibility which Mathew doesn’t seem to own up to. As an adult, particularly one who was exposed to beautiful dark women, he had a chance to outgrow his upbringing, as do we all.
Selling a book these days sometimes requires focusing on the most salacious points to garner interest. I hope there is some educational value in there as well. I bumped into a fellow Fiskite this evening who came the year after Mathew left and inquired if she knew him? She had already read at least one of the articles about his book including what he said about Fisk. She gave me the hand! Mathew’s book may well get the hand as well.