The Whitest Black Guy

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Taxi to Sloane Square, old bean!

"O.J. [Simpson] never gave back. Well, you see any parks around here named for him? Any children's centers? See, now Jim Brown cared about black people. He was an activist. He spoke up. Once O.J. made his money, he split and never came back. He became white."

Cultural, ethnic, and racial identities are tricky things. They're both internal and external: how we self-identify and "present," but also how we're viewed by those both inside and outside our own group. Sometimes, this all manages to conveniently align, and how we self-identify is more or less the same as how others see us and how we "feel." Other times, it's more complicated.

Sometimes, a character superficially appears to belong to a certain racial or cultural group, they were raised as part of that group, they self-identify as part of that group... but somehow they just don't "feel" (either to themselves or others) like part of that group. They lack certain opinions, tastes, or behaviors commonly associated with their group and may share some with another group that they're not superficially a part of, causing them and/or others to question their identity. This often overlaps with No True Scotsman if the criteria for "belonging" to the group seem self-serving, incidental, or arbitrary.

A common example in American works is the African-American character who shares the stereotypical tastes and traits of white characters and isn't sure if they're (or are accused of not being) "black enough." This sometimes happens to characters who are Black and Nerdy. They are often a subject of mockery when compared with other black characters who feel more secure in their "blackness" and subject to unflattering comparisons with Token White characters who are considered "blacker" than they are. This can easily involve Unfortunate Implications if traits like being uneducated or poor are assumed to be somehow "blacker" than being well-educated and successful.

Straight Gay characters also sometimes run into this if they're considered "less gay" than Camp Gays, although the increasing prevalence of the Straight Gay trope makes this less of an issue as time goes on.

This can lead to accusations of Category Traitor, but the two tropes do not necessarily overlap. A Category Traitor is defined by a (real or accused) lack of loyalty to their nominal category. The Whitest Black Guy usually likes their category just fine (if not, see Boomerang Bigot and Stop Being Stereotypical) and in some cases may even act out of an exaggerated sense of loyalty to it in order to compensate. They're just not really sure if they belong.

If this uncertainty about their cultural identity leads them to consciously attempt to emulate and appropriate a different culture's identity, they might become Pretty Fly for a White Guy (or Pretty White For A Black Guy, Pretty Japanese For A Maori Guy, or any number of other variations). Usually, however, it's more of an inversion or subversion of that trope, in which they try and fail to embody the stereotypical identity of their own group and wind up looking even less Fly than the actual White Guys, and meanwhile continue to display traits associated with another cultural group despite themselves. If they attempt to use fantastical means to become a member of a different group, see Trans Nature.

A Sub-Trope of Double Consciousness. Compare Outside Inside Slur, which are commonly applied to such characters, and Stop Being Stereotypical, which is when a character (who might or might not be The Whitest Black Guy) is worried that others in his group are confirming negative stereotypes. Compare and contrast Pass Fail, which is trying and failing to present as part of a group other than one's own. See also False Dichotomy, when there's nothing mutually exclusive about two groups the character feels caught between, and No True Scotsman, when the criteria for "belonging" are self-serving, incidental, or arbitrary. Not to be confused with But Not Too Black, which is about casting choices.

Note that this is not a page for audience reactions. Either the character or other characters must comment on their lack of "belonging" to their ostensible group.

Examples:

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     Comic Books 
  • In Double Happiness, Tom (a Chinese American from Brooklyn) moves in with some relatives from San Francisco's Chinatown. He's distressed to realize how little of the culture he understands—he doesn't even recognize which language his relatives are speaking (it's Hokkien). He is, unfortunately, too Chinese to fit in back in Brooklyn, yet too white to fit in here in Chinatown. "I'm such a twinkie!" Fortunately, his relatives are happy to teach him how to fit in.

     Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County: Oliver Wendell Jones is Black and Nerdy. In one strip his mother tries to get him to act a little more 'black' by wallpapering his room with a huge picture of Michael Jackson's face. Oliver responds by hanging a picture of Albert Einstein over it.

     Film 
  • In the sketch film Amazon Women on the Moon there is a PSA for "Blacks Without Soul," who sing dorky songs like "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and are David Hartman fans and Republicans.
  • In Undercover Brother the main character goes undercover in the Big Bad's company and evokes this trope in order to blend in. Leads to Becoming the Mask thanks to Denise Richards and mayonnaise.
  • In Get Out, the protagonist Chris, a black man, visits his white girlfriend's family in a secluded suburban community where the only other black people act incredibly bland, dress very dapper, and apparently have no idea what fist-bumping is. He later discovers all of the black people are in fact elderly white people who had their consciousnesses transferred into new bodies.

     Literature 
  • In the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Johnny and his friends nickname their black friend "Yo-less", specifically because he doesn't talk, dress, or behave like the then-current stereotypes of a black male (including the then-considered-black-specific slang "yo").
  • Theon Greyjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire is The Starkest Greyjoy. By birth, he's a lordling (later a prince) of the Ironborn, a Proud Warrior Race built around a Rape, Pillage, and Burn philosophy in which the "rape" part is anything but metaphorical. He's taken prisoner and raised from a young age by the Northerners the Starks, an equally Proud Warrior Race whose hat is Honor Before Reason. When he's returned home, many Ironborn, first and foremost his father, question whether the Starks have turned him into "a soft green-lander." The harder he tries to prove that he's still a Greyjoy at heart, the more it becomes clear that he's clinging to a twisted sense of honor and the less clear it becomes whether the father he's trying so hard to impress is his Ironborn birth father or his Northern foster father.
  • Arthur in Along The Winding Road. Despite being of obvious Chinese heritage, he plays the part of a pretty standard white British guy. Lampshaded when he meets Rosalind, who puts together a whole traditional Chinese dinner when he'd not even sure why there's a spinny thing on the table.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Key & Peele, both of whom are biracial (one white parent, one black parent) but both of whom would be identified by most Americans as "black," sometimes feel this way, which winds up being a central element of much of their comedy.
    • In one early sketch, Key plays a biracial man whose (white) date expects him to be able to present as white (which she defines as polite and friendly) and black (which she defines as an Angry Black Man) on cue depending on the situation. He obviously feels more comfortable in the quote-unquote "white" persona and ends the sketch very confused about which situations call for which. He does not, however, ever question her right to demand this of him.
    • In another sketch, the duo has returned to the neighborhood in which they grew up and is ordering dinner from a diner. They are drawn into a game of oneupsmanship to see who can make the "blackest" dinner order, culminating in their eating such "soul food" as possum spines, stork ankles, an old cellar door and a human foot. Neither will admit to disliking the fare for fear of losing racial cred.
  • Several characters on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a sitcom about a hip young urban black high schooler from Philadelphia (Will Smith) moving in with his affluent relatives in Bel Air:
    • Carlton is a stereotypical preppy, aspires to attend an Ivy League university, enjoys dancing to the music of Tom Jones, and idolizes Macaulay Culkin and William Shatner, for which main character Will gives him no end of grief.
      Carlton: Wait 'till we come downstairs in these tuxes. People may not think we're twins, but I'll bet they'll think we're brothers.
      Will: You know, I don't think you'll have to worry about anybody mistaking you for a brother.
    • Used a bit more seriously in the episode "Blood is Thicker Than Mud", where Will and Carlton try to join an all-black fraternity. Although they're both hazed, Carlton's is more severe than Will's, and even after he endures everything they put him through, the Pledgemaster still refuses to let Carlton join because he thinks he's a "sellout". Will quits in disgust when he finds out, and after they return home and tell Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv what happened, Phil laments: "When are we going to stop doing this to each other?"
    • Geoffrey, while racially black, is British by birth and upbringing and has more in common with the Servile Snarker butler archetype than the typical American black man, a fact that does not go un-lampshaded.
  • 30 Rock:
  • Keith of Six Feet Under, a Straight Gay LAPD officer, often feels uncomfortable when spending time with his partner David's Camp Gay friends and taking part in stereotypically "gay" activities like playing Leading Ladies at a party.
  • In Roseanne at one point Leon, Roseanne's gay boss, starts to doubt his homosexuality because he doesn't like musical theater, fashion, and other stereotypically gay interests. Roseanne's response is "Do you like having sex with other men? You're gay."
  • Saturday Night Live: In a third-season episode hosted by O.J. Simpson (long before the murder trial for which he later become infamous), he plays a character in a Saturday Night Fever parody who decides he's "not black anymore."
  • Scrubs
    • In the episode "His Story III", Dr. Cox questions Turk's blackness, although the third point is a bit of a subversion:
      Dr. Cox: You're black? 'Cause last I checked, you had a nerdy white best friend, you enjoy Neil Diamond, and you damn sure act like a black guy, and these, my friend, are all characteristics of white guys. Please understand, I'm a huge supporter of the N-Double-A-CP, and if you don't know what that stands for, it is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and quite frankly, I always thought they should change the "Colored People" to "African-Americans". But then, of course, it wouldn't be the N-Double-A-CP, it would be the N-Quad-A, or "NAAAA", and I know, this probably sounds like a digression, but it actually leads me back to my original point: Do I think you're black? NAAAA!!
    • In the episode "My Identity Crisis", Carla worries that she's stopped dreaming in Spanish, and thinks that this means she's losing her Dominican identity. The fact that the dream was about Turk (her husband) and JD murdering her in cold blood was perfectly fine.
  • In one episode of Desmond's, Desmond's son fails a school assignment for writing an essay on being young, black and British because his teacher feels it has too much of a middle-class perspective. Or as his sister puts it: "They're saying he's not black enough!"
  • This is a large part of the comedy show Blackish. Andre was raised in an impoverished urban family while his kids live an upper middle class suburban one. He's concerned with things like his oldest son having no black friends.
  • In the third season of RuPaul's Drag Race, there was a small amount of tension with Carmen Carrera, a light-skinned Hispanic from New Jersey who speaks in a standard American accent, and Puerto Ricans Alexis Mateo and Yara Sofia, who both have darker skin and thick accents. At times Carmen felt Yara and Alexis looked down on her for being more Americanized. This is brought up again in the eighth season where Naomi Smalls, a black queen who was adopted by white parents, would often be called Oreo by her classmates because she didn't display any stereotypically black mannerisms.
  • Taken literally in an episode of Divorce Court that featured an interracial couple—a black man and a white woman. The man was albino and shaved his head, meaning most people mistook him for white. Among other complaints, his ex-wife accused him of playing up his perceived whiteness when it suited him, like job interviews and talking to the police. It may sound like she didn't want him to be ashamed of his background, but it all went to hell when the judge asked her how is he supposed to act, and she threw up gang signs and started going "Yo yo yo..."
  • Gunn in season five of Angel went from an inner city street kid to a well spoken, suit-wearing lawyer who can recite Gilbert and Sullivan from memory. Lampshaded in one episode when Wesley walks in on him singing "Three Little Maids", as soon as he notices Wes, Gunn very awkwardly starts trying to rap, before giving up and pretending nothing happened.
    Three little maids... and you don't stop, when all the ladies in the gangsta butt go...
  • In The Middleman episode "The Accidental Occidental Conception", there's a busboy at a Chinese restaurant who talks about his boss's long work hours as being "a culture thing" and, when asked to translate an occult Mandarin chant, says:
    Dude, Iím like third-generation twice-removed. I donít speak a lick of Chinese.
  • The Fast Show featured a sketch involving an upper-class and posh-accented white couple who repeatedly claim to be "Cockneys" (highlighting that they clearly aren't.) In one sketch, they go to a pub and get into a fight with an equally immaculately dressed and spoken black gentleman just like them, who purports to be a "Yardie."
  • The Mindy Project addressed this in a season 4 episode, where one of Mindy's blind dates isn't interested in her because she's not culturally "Indian" enough. The rest of the episode is Mindy trying to prove to him that she is Indian. There is also a level of Reality Subtext in the plot because the show has been criticized for a lack of diversity in Mindy's love interests (in fact, this episode is the first time she's dated a minority in the entire series).
  • In the Law & Order: SVU episode "October Surprise", this trope is discussed in regards to ADA Barba, who is a Cuban-American from the Bronx. When his childhood friend and New York mayoral candidate Alex Munoz turns out to be cheating and then bribing his mistresses to stay quiet, he tries to let him off easy for the crimes. Amaro (also Hispanic) tells Barba that he's just doing this out of guilt for leaving the barrio and succeeding in life. Later on, when SVU finds that he's been sexting a teenage girl, Barba confronts him and Munoz basically accuses him of being a sell-out who thinks he's white. There's also some racial subtext, whether intentional or unintentional. Munoz, and Amaro for that matter, are darker-skinned Hispanics while Barba can pass for white.
  • Sci-fi example in The Expanse, Miller is The Eartherst Belter, who is mocked by other Belters for dressing and acting like he's from Earth, despite being born and raised on Ceres Station. In Season 2 he shaves his Earther hairstyle into a more typically Belter mohawk, replaced his fedora and suit jacket with a battered leather coat, started using Belter slang and took his first spacewalk after witnessing a genocide of Belters by Earther scientists on Eros and killing the man responsible.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Commander Worf is a Klingon who was raised by humans from a young age. He observes Klingon traditions, Klingon spirituality, and the Klingon code of honor... far more scrupulously, it turns out, than other Klingons. As time goes on (and he has occasion to interact with more Klingons who were raised in the Empire), it becomes clear that his Klingon identity, while he derives a great deal of personal meaning from it, has only a superficial relationship to Klingon culture as experienced by other Klingons, and he has missed out on a fair degree of nuance by not being raised among them.
    WORF: I do not laugh because I do not feel like laughing.
    GUINAN: Other Klingons feel like laughing. What does that say about you?
    WORF: Perhaps it says that I do not feel like other Klingons.
  • Frasier: Niles' first Yale roommate, Huntington Treadwell III:
    Niles:' His father was a pioneer in Selma and Montgomery.
    Frasier' Yes, I believe he built golf courses all over the South!

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Marcus from FoxTrot is black but his personality and interests are basically identical to Jason's, and in a series of strips parodying The Boondocks, he's shown to be as clueless about black culture as Jason.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Upon seeing Jimi Mayhem, in the apex of his Shogun Of Harlem gimmick at NWA Vendetta Pro, Jimmy Wang Yang blurted out "Wigga please!"

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, party member Sera is an elf adopted by humans. While her rebel group champions peasants, which tends to include most city elves, Sera has no kinship with her birth race beyond that, as she believes they don't do enough to help themselves. She occasionally argues with the other elven party member, Solas, and possibly the player character (if an elf), over her views. Sera, in fact, is one of the reasons race-specific armor and weapons in the game are marked "[Race]-Trained Only" rather than, say, "Elf Only." Her wearing Elven cultural garments would be extremely out of character. Since she was raised among humans, however, she can use gear marked "Human-Trained Only" despite not being a human.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: The Tigers see Chaka as close to one, and sees Vox as a sellout, as said in A Fistful of Chaka:
    [Chaka] needs a firm guiding hand. I mean, will you check out the silly-ass nigga-shit she is always pulling? She hangs with a white crew, she dates a white boy, and the only black folks she deals with are oreos and sellouts like Vox.Ē

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Cleveland Show, Cleveland is declared "The Whitest Black Man in America" and discovers that he was largely raised by a white woman and undergoes a crisis of racial identity. At one point he tries and fails to act as a parody of black masculinity and Hilarity Ensues; at another he decides to lean in to his new, whiter identity and bursts through the door with two big bags of stuff from Trader Joe's.
  • The Boondocks:
    • Granddad mocks Huey and teasingly calls him "white boy" for preferring healthy vegetarian cooking to the ludicrously unhealthy "black" dinner Granddad has made. This is ironic considering that politically, Huey is a militant black power advocate.
    • Thomas DuBois is a black man who is as far removed from black stereotypes as you can get. He's an upper-middle-class lawyer with a white wife, and he lacks the stereotypical African-American accent that other characters have. He sometimes comes into conflict with lower-class African-American characters for this, and in an early episode a very white lawyer voiced by Adam West of all people calls his racial loyalty into question.

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