Is It Time to Do Away With The ‘One-Drop’ Rule?

by Britni Danielle
Charles Chesnutt often wrote about race, class, and passing. He identified as being black despite being able to pass as white.

Charles Chesnutt often wrote about race, class, and passing. He identified as being black despite being able to pass as white.

Conversations about race in America can lead to never-ending discussions, hurt feelings, and sometimes even breakthroughs. Blame it on our complicated past of slavery, racism, and legalized prejudice, but even approaching a frank discussion about race in this country can seem nearly impossible.

And yet we keep trying.

Recently, I spotted an article over on The Root which stated that Johnny Depp is a direct descendant of Elizabeth Key, a former slave who worked to secure her freedom in 1656.

This finding prompted one commenter to question whether or not Depp would “take an interest in his Negroid ancestry,” as if this new revelation about Depp’s distant relative should automatically prompt such an inquiry. The same commenter went on to wonder if the actor may have “some ‘plaining [sic] to do about his distancing himself from us.”

While I doubt anyone will rush to claim Depp as black (at least I hope not), how blackness gets defined in America continues to be rooted in antiquated notions of the one-drop rule.

According to Wikipedia, the one-drop rule is defined as:

“A historical colloquial term in the United States for the social classification as Negro of individuals with any African ancestry; meaning any person with “one drop of Negro blood” was considered black.”

This rule–which has also been called the “one black ancestor rule;” the “traceable amount rule” by the courts; and the “hypo-descent rule” by anthropologists—was even cemented into law when Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act in 1924, which was replicated by several other states. The law designated only two racial categories: white and colored. It reclassified everyone, including Native Americans, as “colored” because white Virginians felt many had African blood and were simply trying to “pass” as Native America to avoid segregation.

When pondering whether or not we should do away with the one-drop rule, it’s important to remember it was not created by those of African ancestry looking forge a shared kinship or by local/federal governments hoping to properly categorize the populace for the purpose of collecting census data (the terms “Indian,” “mulatto,” and “negro” were well established), but rather the one-drop rule was created to keep the white race “pure.” In short, it was merely another tool aimed at protecting white supremacy in America.

As Professor F. James Davis points out, the “rule” only applies to black Americans, not those of African ancestry throughout the diaspora.

Not only does the one-drop rule apply to no other group than American blacks, but apparently the rule is unique in that it is found only in the United States and not in any other nation in the world. In fact, definitions of who is black vary quite sharply from country to country, and for this reason people in other countries often express consternation about our definition. James Baldwin relates a revealing incident that occurred in 1956 at the Conference of Negro-African Writers and Artists held in Paris. The head of the delegation of writers and artists from the United States was John Davis. The French chairperson introduced Davis and then asked him why he considered himself Negro, since he certainly did not look like one. Baldwin wrote, “He is a Negro, of course, from the remarkable legal point of view which obtains in the United States, but more importantly, as he tried to make clear to his interlocutor, he was a Negro by choice and by depth of involvement–by experience, in fact.”

Today, black and biracial Americans continue to grapple with these issues. Mixed-raced folks are often forced to identify as black or risk being ostracized by others (and some loudly object to this categorization), while some African-Americans are uneasy with biracial individuals being held up as standards of beauty and achievement for black folks as a whole.

Untangling the one-drop rule in America may be damn near impossible. It is so deeply rooted in our collective history that it would take generations to unravel.  Dismantling this system of thought would require many to rethink how we see and define blackness, which for many, especially biracial individuals, is an extremely personal choice.

But should we try? Should everyone with a black great-great grandparent or ancestor be forced to identify as black? And should we allow it?

  • Mademoiselle

    If the only way you know you’re black is by tracing your DNA back over 400 years, you probably shouldn’t go around claiming you’re black in lay conversation.

  • niksmit

    I do believe we should work at dismantling the one drop paradigm because it’s based in oppression and I don’t see enough benefit from it to outweigh that. Of course I am one of those people who believes in unity and a coalition across the African diaspora and all people of color in the States, so do with that what you will.

    I’m not going to force anyone to do anything. I believe that ultimately identity is claimed and stated in the first person only. No one can force me to claim (or denounce) anything and I’m not trying to force anyone else to do so. It’s not up to me to allow someone else to identify as X. My only job is to police how I allow people to refer to me and my identity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelley.johnson.75436 Kelley Johnson

    Um, yeah. It’s way past time to do away with that rule. One drop of black blood does not make a person black. If one drop of white blood doesn’t, then why do we accept that notion?

  • noirluv45

    As a black woman, I never felt compelled to bring bi-racial people into sista and brothahood unless they choose to identify that way, i.e. Halle Berry and President Barack Obama.

    People can identify the way they choose. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.

  • SAA

    I think this is something geared towards Whites as they generally disregard someone as “other” if there are VISIBLE markers of “non-White” blood. If anything it’s Black people I find who are the one rushing to claim everyone and anyone who has a trace amount of African blood flowing through their veins.

  • noirluv45

    Yeah, and why would that be? Why would black people be in such a hurry to claim everyone and anyone as if we get paid for each one we claim. Please.

  • ….

    The funny thing is I think black ppl use a “reverse one-drop rule” sometimes with non-black ancestors. A black person could find out that they had a great-great grandmother who might have been part Native American and will go around claiming that ancestry as if they grew up on a reservation or something lol.Its like it dosent matter if they’re only 0.02% non black they will claim that 0.02% as their race and start claiming “other”.

  • Anthony

    The one drop rule does not bother me, but I certainly have no urge to make someone observe it. The example about Johnny Depp someone saying Johnny Depp needs to claim us is silly. It is unique to America, but unique things are what makes for a specific ethnicity or nationality. I don’t want to be just like a Jamaican, Dominican, or an Angolan, I am happy to be an African American.

  • Ooh La La

    I have take no issue with biracial people or multiracial people identifying with their black heritage. I actually encourage it. I think the issue is that blacks who identify not just by genetics, but phenotype as well, can sometimes feel slighted with the fact that biracial/multiracial people can be affiliated with blackness without all of the drawbacks of actually looking the part.

    I personally think the one drop rule is silly. In some instances, we are talking about people who’s great-great-great grandmother was black, and everyone is in the ancestry is white. They don’t look the part, nor do they affiliate with the culture. It’s just not practical. If it were the case, we are talking about a large majority of the population, since all races are derived from Africa.

  • SAA

    That’s what my experience has been but if yours has been different that’s okay too and is worth mentioning. If someone tells me they’re Black then fine. If they want to identify as White then by all means they’re free to do so as well. What I was simply stating is that this question of forcing people to identify as Black because of a Blak ancestor, near or distant, is based mostly on outside appearance and it’s White people who will make that “other” distinction whereas in MY experience Black people are more apt to identify or claim anyone as Black based off appearance or their family tree.

  • BeanBean

    If a person of mixed background wants to identify as black, usually they are already treated as black, than that’s okay with me. I’ve read a lot by Chesnutt, and his situation is different because of the time he lived in. He was treated as a black man, so I have no problem with him considering himself black. however, the one drop rule was/is stupid and I think it has no place in today’s society. If the one drop rule was reversed, I would be considered white, even though I have only one recent white ancestor from 1900. How crazy does that sound???? Mixed race people should be the only ones to decide which culture they identify with, not random internet people or people on the street. Blacks of all colors and tones should define ourselves, and not let anyone else influence that choice.

  • Sheena

    Right! I never have been in a position to say whether or not multi-racial ppl should or shouldn’t call themselves Black or White or whatever. You call yourself and identify the way you see fit.

    However, belief in the one drop rule I think, has gone beyond the old notions of Whites distancing themselves from Blacks. I think many Blacks have adopted it because of a need to feel like we have more “on our side” or that we are more of a presence in this country than we really are. As someone said in another comment, it’s not like we get paid for every person who identifies as Black. We should’t be so quick to “claim” a person with Black ancestry who hasn’t made that decision for themselves. Consider Tiger Woods. He doesn’t necessarily identify as Black (I believe he says he is biracial; NOT “Cablasian”…..he has clarified that he used that term when he was a child b/c back then he was confused) but many of us have taken him in as a Black man b/c he is a so called “credit to the race”. He is an accomplished golfer so many of us want him “on our side”, no matter whether or not he identifies or not.

    Also, I have seen many people make comments on other articles questioning the Blackness of people who are indeed half Black (biracial) such as Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson or Amber Rose or even Halle Berry. In these cases I would absolutely consider them Black given that they identify themselves as such (I know Halle does). You can’t look at Halle and say that’s not a Black woman. Physical traits and features factor into this arguement as well. You can call yourself (by race) anything you want. But there is something to be said for how the majority of people see you. If Ms. Berry started calling herself White tomorrow, that would be totally within her rights. But the world would still treat her like a Black woman.

  • MimiLuvs

    “…But should we try? Should everyone with a black great-great grandparent or ancestor be forced to identify as black? And should we allow it?”

    I wonder the same thing as well.
    There will be some individuals who believe that if a person continues to self-identify themselves as being non-black, then they will be denying their blackness due to shame.
    I know that there are others who would think that it would be absolutely silly for a person to claim that they are black, when they physically do not look black.
    For me, like most Americans, my lineage has different cultures/races. Whenever geneaology and race is brought up in a convo, I usually say something along the lines of “I’m black but like most Americans, there are some relatives that are not”.
    But, I do stay the hell away from that convo because of a lot of negative responses that I receive from people.

  • KKay

    I know exactly what you mean. I don’t really see this with a lot of everyday people, but I have seen it.

    However, I do have to say that I’m seeing it more often with celebrities. They start off as black and then start othering the more popular they become.

    With that said, they are free to identify however they want, I just find it disingenuous to keep jumping back and forth across the color-line when it’s convenient. Be what you want to be and own it. Be proud of it. Don’t be coy about it or try to secretly hide for fear that you may lose your fanbase because of it.

    Honestly, it’s just one more reason to merely view celebrities as imperfect people just trying to earn a living and not as living gods.

  • i.mean.really

    You’re only as black as you look.

  • JJ

    The one drop rule should be done with. Like the article says it’s a racist rule that we blacks are still upholding. If you have one parent who is black and one of another race you can’t be black. That person would be biracial. Nothing wrong with acknowledging that.

  • BeanBean

    I think the one drop rule was/is useless. In the case of Chesnutt, he was treated as a black man, that’s who he related to, so that’s what he saw himself as. Mixed race people have the right to chose what they identify as, even if society might not agree. Blacks have played a major role in upholding the one drop rule as whites have. Most times a black person just calls a mixed person black without even thinking. It’s time to start thinking 2013 and not 1913.

  • KKay

    I know exactly what you mean. The conversation can go from campside fire to nuclear explosion in a matter of seconds.

  • ….

    Yeah.The thing is I don’t think these ppl even truly identify with these alleged non black ancestors.They just think it sounds cool to claim it every once in a while.Also I don’t really agree with the idea that a person can be what they want to be.You are what you are period.

  • Lynne

    I have to admit this a very painful article to read.

    The man pictured is Charles W. Chesnutt. He did indeed look white, but he chose to identify as black. He made many contributions to black causes during a time when blacks were dealing with unimaginable oppression.

    I’ve always believed that one of the greatest strengths of black American progress was in the ability of the community to unite when push came to shove. Maybe a well-heeled family of light-skinned blacks would not allow their kids to marry darker-skinned poor blacks, but the former often turned up to politically help the latter. They were often magnificent contributors when they didn’t have to be.

    Mark my words: this push toward multiracialism of “former” blacks will be the end of that. This country will be another Brazil.

    BTW, I agree no one should force someone like Johnny Depp to consider himself black. He’s a white guy, just as Obama’s white mother had a black ancestor. Obama is still biracial.

  • W

    Ummmm ….White people do the same thing when they find out they have a great-great-great-great (insert relative here) who happens to be Native American. With the Native American’s you have to be 1/16th documented on file with a tribe. Correct me if I am wrong on the last part.

  • Ms. Vee

    The one drop is a Jim Crow law. Should we do away with it? Absolutely! Now there’s nothing wrong with a mixed race person acknowledging his/her black ancestry. But to solely identify as black while being half or more of another race is illogical and counter productive to blacks being represented correctly.

    Would anybody feel content with these individuals representing the face of blackness?

    http://blacksportsonline.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/kris_humphries.jpg

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6ncirYUAR1rneo61o1_400.jpg

    http://cdn.imnotobsessed.com/wp-content/uploads/kimora-lee-simmons2012-06-12_04-49-52steps-out-in-style-843×1280.jpg

    http://womenonthefence.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/149388417.jpg

    http://images.beautyriot.com/photos/jennifer-beals-medium-bangs-curly.jpg

    ….i would hope not.

  • http://gravatar.com/ebony82 ebony82

    No one should be “forced” or pressured to identify with anything and I feel like that is exactly what it is with the ODR: black people telling a multi-ethnic black person not to identify with both (or all), just that they are black. Who the eff made them God?! It almost seems as though black people want to claim multi-ethnic black people for the purpose of living vicariously through them. Anyway, the one drop rule should have been buried hundreds of years ago. It was a rule designed to separate blacks from whites and to ensure that any half black half white person be denied access to white privilege. And that is something to celebrate? Please! With as much mixing as there is going on today, ODR is VERY OUTDATED! The fact that many black people continue to hold onto and follow this skeleton mindset, whereas any other non-black mixed person accepts and celebrates all of themselves, makes us look and sound ridiculous.

  • kno

    Race is defined, in America, in a way the benefits white society, even if that white society is mixed.

    Case in point, the presiding Chief of the Cherokee Nation is only 1/32, that’s 0.03% Cherokee. He look not one nary bit of Cherokee, certainly not the like original, non-diluted/non-impacted, first nation peoples.

    However, would a black looking Cherokee with the same degree of admixture get a change to preside over the tribe? The way the Dawes Rolls worked, Blacks with that little percentage of Cherokee ancestry aren’t even federally recognized.

  • Afrostyling

    Yes please! Have some dignity and stop claiming any ole person who just so happens to have a drop of black blood.

  • kno

    But, if I’m accepting people with less than 75% sub-Saharan blood quantum, and biracial who have non-black, non- 75% + blood quantum parentage and grand parentage, as black…I might as well accept the rest, no?

  • kno

    Another crazy thing is that even people with high sub-Saharan blood quantum can appear as if they are biracial, or near white (light skin). so, with all of that complexity, how can you draw any lines?

    Those white supremacist forefathers knew exactly what they were doing with all the raping and ODR-ing…

    fawk them bastards.

  • kno

    Have any of you read the blog http://www.FindingEliza.com. It’s a fascinating and splended read about a black-mixed race American family that had, at least one, member who played an influential role during the civil rights era. There seems to be a number of ‘black’ history makers in that family.

    It’s clear that many of them looked white, but how can you tell any living member of that family, who does look white (or not black at all), that you’re not claiming them as one of us.

    You just can. Or can you?

  • LuvB

    WHO CARES? Johnny Depp won’t know what it is like to not get a cab at night so what difference does it make? Although, if we are all parts of who we are then I guess he is black too but not black like I can’t get a job because of my skin color black, just black in name. Big difference. You go Johny!

  • kno

    The ODR and racial classification seem to be one in the same. If you dismantle one, wouldn’t you be dismantling the other?

  • kno

    In essence, there wouldn’t even be a black race, or a white race, if ODR were to be dismantled.

  • LuvB

    You are denying blatant centuries of racism where still today whites make sure they make multiracial people know that they are black. We did not start this but we seem to be blamed for it. lol. I would like Tiger Woods Or Obama (if they were not rich and famous) walk into a neighborhood that is all white and claim privilege and see what they would get. Cops called on them.

  • kno

    Right, identify as black while working against black college youth having federal funding available to go to HBCU’s, or standing infront of a group of black male college graduates and insist to them that they should accept the racially biased system as it is, allow it to abuse them and just work harder, and not be lazy (OBAMA)

    Or, identify as black while working diligently to further dilute your bloodline by procreating with whites, one of whom wouldn’t have procreated with you if you were not partly white (BERRY)…

    sure, like just identify as black makes a huge difference…

  • kno

    blacks aren’t rushing. it’s implied to do so based on the long history of social conditioning revolving around race in this country. Race classification lends being INDIFFERENT about how a person became ‘black’.

  • kno

    The current Chief of the Cherokee Nation is only 0.03% Cherokee. But when black people want to claim their 0.03% it’s a problem.

    You see how this accounting only benefits whites and those with the white, or near-white, phenotype.

  • KKay

    @……

    Exactly. I think at times when people do this (the jumping back and forth thing), it’s a way of leveling up. I’m not just a black woman, I’m a special black woman. I just wanted you to know.

    However, I do allow people to identify as they see fit. Personnel anecdote time: I have a decent amount of biracial children in my family. One of my cousins is half-Japanese. Picture a teenage version of Dwayne Johnson, but with brown skin. He considers himself black. Poor child was confused by the “good hair” thing. He told the girl who told him that, “It’s just hair. It just lays there; what’s so good about it?” Good answer, son, good answer.

    I have another cousin who is half-white who also considers himself black. He has got to be one of the most racially-ambiguous looking kids around; he looks like a tanned white boy: straight hair and all. He considers himself black. Which I have to say surprised this 33-year old (at the time) alot. He’s been raised by his mother and step-father (both white) and his community is lily-white (when a white person says a community is too white for them, you know it is lily-white). I was sure I was going to hear bi-racial which is within his right. He often checks people who assume he’s just a tanned white boy when they start flinging the n-word about.

    So again I have no problem with the way people identify themselves. Just own it. Like Tiger Woods did. He didn’t/doesn’t let society(white, black, or other) define what he wants to be. He has been consistent with what he wanted to called from day one. So I have no problems with him on this front (still think he’s a bit of ass for the whole cheating thing).

  • Ms. Vee

    …..ookay. Black woman + non-black man = biracial child. Happy?

    -_-

  • http://gravatar.com/jandjcreative2013 jandjcreative2013

    How About you just b what you are. Whatever that is.and stop allowing others to tell you what it is

  • KKay

    First of all. HOW DARE YOU!!! How dare you describe generations of black women being raped continually over and over again by slave masters simply as black women making mixed children. You talking about the white man’s revisionist lie. How about the one you are coming on this page and spewing? I pity you. I pity your ignorance and your small mind.

    Now on to the topic at hand….

    This is a very complicated subject and the way people feel will be varied and emotional. Some black PEOPLE may have a problem with categorizing all mixed and/or bi-racial children as Black. I say people because some Black men feel the same way. Yes I realize we are on a site for black women and that the reason for your derision toward us. I just find it curious that you’re here spouting this message when you can be on a site devoted to black men discussing this. Because I’ve heard a few black men even go so far as to say we need to segregate to keep the race pure. Marinate on that for a minute. I think

    This is my stance and quite a few people in this thread have similiar feelings; it is up to the individual. If a biracial or multiracial person would like to be seen as such, who am I to tell them they can’t? Am I supposed to say, “Nope, too bad you’re blackety, black, black, black”? Because that’s the other side of what you’re saying. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel the need to bring them over to blackness especially if they personally don’t want to be.

    Funny how black women don’t have a problem with Alicia Keys, Barack Obama, Lenny Kravitz, Halle Berry and Mellssa Harris-Perry. Hmmm…wonder why that is?

  • Yb

    “This is nothing more than the black woman trying to control the black man and police the sexuality of the black man and white woman the way the white man previously controlled the black man and policed the sexuality of the white woman, Fact.”

    Da fuq?

    The term biracial was popularized by white mothers. White women started the movement for mixed children to be ablr identify as what the are: BIRACIAL.

    RAPED black women were FORCED to make mixed babies who were FORCED to identity as black,

    Not abiding to the one drop rule is now keeping you from mating and expressing your sexaulity with non black women. It’s now black women’s fault that non black women don’t want you dude? Really? Scapegoat us for every damn thing.

  • KKay

    For anyone wondering about my rant, I was responding to a comment by “Franklin”. I know I shouldn’t feed the trolls, but I couldn’t let that nonsense go by without a response. Carry on :)

  • SayWhat

    Agreed. I always have a problem with the black person who feels that they have ‘one up’d me’ because they are partly ‘other’. I kid you not I had that argument with someone who was 3% Asian. When is the last time you saw an Asian person going ‘oh my god, can you believe it i’m 3% black? yippee!!’

    The worse was when Louis gates did his ancestry special with Eva Longoria (sp) and he discovered that she was like 10% black among other things, I swear he asked how she felt about being part black, like she was supposed to start crying.

    We have been conditioned to want to promote anything that is not black. le sigh.

  • Gospel

    I think America, is already like Brazil?

  • 100keepit

    I just find it funny that a very dark person who happens to have one white parent can call themselves white but someone like Vanessa Williams is black. If you are a crackhead though, you are automatically seen as black no matter how light your skin is. Keepin it 100.

  • Dee D

    I agree with most of the comments and with the person who said you know black when you see it.
    For example without knowing J-Cole and Drake had white mothers I’d thought they were just regular light skin black dudes, they both identify as black because that is the way they look and they more than likely go through the same struggles most black males go through. Women like Kimora Lee and Naya Rivera describe themselves as bi-racial, I support that because they look bi-racial and more than likely won’t go through the same struggles the typical black woman will go through.

  • Rue

    That Biracial documentary…SMH!
    Listen biracial people…

  • Beautiful Mic

    They identify as black because doing so is profitable. It has nothing to do with looks.

  • B

    I agree with your statement. However, I don’t think it’s a matter of a bi/multi-racial person not wanting to be identified as black. In my opinion, it is about them having the freedom to accept and celebrate all of who they are, especially if they acknowledge and celebrate both cultures/ethnicities in the home.

  • B

    Not only are black women being scapegoated. We are being attacked (physically and verbally) for rejecting the position of scapegoat. I don’t care what anyone says. The only one responsible for life’s “limitations” is the person themself. While you’re busy blaming “me” for your failure, I am living, loving and enjoying my life! So, WHATEVER! NEXT!

  • B

    “This is nothing more than the black woman trying to control the black man and police the sexuality of the black man and white woman the way the white man previously controlled the black man and policed the sexuality of the white woman, Fact.”

    -Well, to whomever made that comment, know this: I don’t desire to control ANYTHING I don’t want, and I don’t want YOU!

  • B

    While watching Degrassi, which Drake was in, I actually thought he was hispanic.

  • Mr. Man

    It’s just not that serious, it’s only this serious to racist folk because they have a wicked agenda. We are all the human race and so beautifully come in different shades and features and cultures.

  • MyCityIsChocolate

    “Today, black and biracial Americans continue to grapple with these issues. Mixed-raced folks are often forced to identify as black or risk being ostracized by others (and some loudly object to this categorization), while some African-Americans are uneasy with biracial individuals being held up as standards of beauty and achievement for black folks as a whole.”

    This is not true. I don’t think everyone is black…and many of us don’t. And for the record they are held as the standard of beauty by AMERICA!!! not African Americans….cause I’m not attracted to bi racial men at all. And I don’t people with plastic surgery are hotter than someone naturally beautiful… sorry boo. and we know why this is. It’s Willie Lynch…you have people fighting or arguing over stuff that’s obivious….okay. they are NOT the first black Ms. America when your naming off I’m German and Spanish and Black…lol so speak for yourself….you might be playin into that… but all of us don’t.

    no one should carry the burden of being someone that don’t want to viewed as… it makes them bitter towards black folk…people don’t get bitter towards America…it’s us. and with that said…I also don’t think they should run around benefiting from a “black card” either. with white husbands and children…lol…that’s black folk lacking self respect….my opinion.

    and No, J Depp is NOT black….and, Soledad O’Brien is not either.

  • http://confessionsofacurvygirl.wordpress.com confessionsofacurvygirl

    If a mixed race person wants to identify is Black, it’s none of your business.

  • MyCityIsChocolate

    Girl…yeah. I was hacing this very conversation with two black women. Like, the youngest of the three of said…they got these Ninja’s running around with balls of confidence…LMAO thinking they so wanted. no not really.

    The whole thing is what it is. The Native American story is not far from what has and is happening to us. Black men are being used in an ugly way. But, ego won’t allow them to let us to be able to tell them that. Willie Lynch is real. And like the saying goes only the strong will survive. and oh yeah…we’re all human LMAO but, some folks just out number others. right.

  • http://confessionsofacurvygirl.wordpress.com confessionsofacurvygirl

    Chestnut had the choice to be White or Black. He chose to be Black. He chose not break his family ties.

  • KKay

    That’s exactly my sentiment. To clarify, if they don’t want to be considered solely as a black person, that is that person’s right. Who am I to tell to them any different?

  • Maude

    This is a complicated issue. I’m an historian and my focus is on black people, so I do a lot of research, which requires a lot of classification and categorization. For example, if we go in the bookstore or library and all the black authors, from biographers to humorists, are filed in the same section, we get justifiably bent of out shape and wonder out loud why we aren’t shelved by theme like all the other authors; on the other hand, when you walk in that bookstore/library and want to discover some new black writers and no one is categorized as such, good luck. It’s easy to say that an antiquated notion like the one-drop rule needs to be discarded once and for all, but I admit I really like knowing that John James Audubon was a man of color, for example, and it’s important in this not-exactly-post-racial society to be able to tell children of color about all of our collective accomplishments (and hardships).

  • Lynne

    Hmmmm.

    I read that John James Audubon’s father had him with a French woman from the Brittany region of France, but that the same father had OTHER children by his “quadroon” mistress. I don’t think either of John James Audubon’s birth parents were of color.

  • Kam

    t’s true White do it too, especially when trying to rationalize some racist behavior. All of a sudden they start dragging out the Cherokee great grandmothers who all happen to be princesses. But having Native ancestry is not the same as being Native because when you are Native you are claiming to belong to a tribal Nation, with its own government and laws. It’s funny that they chose Johnny Depp because when Native Americans got mad that Johnny Depp was playing Tonto in the Lone Ranger he started claiming he had Native ancestry. Then he started donating to Native causes and being some kind of advocate. Notice how quiet he is on his Black ancestry.

    On the last part, each tribe has different membership requirements. Some require a certain blood quantum, others lineal descent. For example the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma does not have a blood quantum requirement, you just have to descend from someone on the Dawes Roll. But the Eastern Band Cherokee requires a blood quantum of at least 1/16. For the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee you need to be at least 1/4.

  • Justus

    Confusion. Lol here is my funky twoand a half cents. First thing first our victim of racism Mr. Chestnutf was not white. If I am not mistaking we was considered Negro or colored at this time not black. Please think about that for a moment. Terms applied and definitions given. Non-white people who are classified as black have always been biracial or multicultural once the first slavemaster decided to have his way with women in the slave quarters. This is not a new phenomenon. Frederick Douglas, Charles Drew, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, and the Mariah Carey of his generation the great Adam Clayton Powell. All these people were considered BLACK. So much pain so much neglect. What are ee going to do become white people and kick out all the so called light skin people out of the black race. Stop it. This is just foolishness we don’t do the classifying. Logically speaking science and genetics has nothing to do with this classification of race. This was invented to oppress people who don’t classify as white. Tragic that we are still dealing with this issue. If interested for those who think this is a new issue please watch and digest Imitation of Life or for something more recent The Human Stain.

    Replace Racism (white supremacy) with a system of justice. Gone

  • david

    Everyone can self identify as whatever they want. Then its up to the group they are claiming to join to either accept or reject them. Race will not become less important by continuing to give life to these old rules that have long since been rejected.

  • Nana

    KKay – You are a credit to the “human race” and that is all that matters…. God Bless You – You are unique, intelligent, self confident and beautiful.

  • Allen

    ” Race will not become less important by continuing to give life to these old rules that have long since been rejected.”

    If you’re referring to the “One Drop Rule,” which this article is about.. that hasnt “long since been rejected.” Thats very much so still in use today; easiest example.. Obama. He’s biracial, yet to practically all of America, he’s Black. How often do you see that disputed?

  • JO27

    Contrary to what Americans may think, the US has NEVER had a federal law designating a so-called ‘one drop rule’. In the US, SELF-IDENTIFICATION is the ONLY legal basis for racial classification.

    Although a few southern states which were formerly part of the Confederate States of America passed laws on racial classification in the early 1900s, there was no systematic application of these laws nor can they be said to have been effective.

    Throughout American history intermarriage between self-identifying Whites, Blacks, and Native Americans has been commonplace and those individuals self-identifying as White or of mostly White ancestry have generally been accepted as part of White society. For example, genetic surveys of White Americans have shown that 1/3 of White people in the US have recent African Ancestry — in other words, are part Black.

    The government doesn’t determine what your ‘race’ is — you do. If you see yourself as White and check that off on a government form, does someone coming knocking on your door asking for proof? Of course not. Why? Because there is no such thing as a ‘one drop rule’.

    Despite its notoriety, the one drop rule has been more American myth than fact.

  • E. F. Worsham

    The “one drop” rule was abolished in 1967 as part of the Loving vs Virginia case under Chief Justice Earl Warren. That “law” was deemed unconstitutional.

  • http://twitter.com/mischling2nd AD Powell (@mischling2nd)

    The author of this article doesn’t realize that blacks are the main support of the one drop myth. There is no law forcing people to be “black,” nor are most whites interested in enforcing it.

  • CeeJay

    The one drop of Black blood rule was fully enforced during the times of slavery and up until the civil rights movement by White people. Today’s progressive young liberal white Americans don’t think that way. It is the Black community promoting it because they are trying to increase their numbers.

Latest Stories

10 Questions No One Will Ask Ex-Boxing Champ Kassim Ouma After Assaulting a Man Who Came On To Him

by

10 Things We Can Learn From Olivia Pope On “Scandal”

by

Struggling To Tell Black People Apart? Watch David Alan Grier Hilariously Break It Down

by

Carol’s Daughter Files For Bankruptcy

by
More in black in america, blackness
Republican Pundit Questions if MSNBC’s Karen Finney is “Black Enough”
SO
Catching Up With Black in America’s Soledad O’Brien

Close