America loves its one drop rule. A person from mixed racial background-most commonly Black and White- is automatically Black. Yes you are technically biracial, but is your hue even slightly darker than milk? Then you are Black. This rule may have been invented by racists who wished to distance themselves from racial hybrids, but now everyone lives by it. A biracial person who wishes to identify as biracial rather than Black is sure to annoy some Black people. “Oh you are ashamed of being Black? If the KKK walks in here do you think they’ll see you as White or bi-whatever? No you are BLACK black blackitty black”
Side Note: I particularly find this KKK point quite daft and do not understand why people think it is a valid argument. We are telling people they must identify the way racists want them to. The KKK thinks this so you must be it. The same KKK that thinks we are scum unworthy of life.
A biracial person who wishes to identify as White? Just throw them away and keep the bath water.
Biracial is usually taken to mean Black and White (because as we know these are the only two races in the world), but regardless of what the other race is, as long as there is a drop of Black in your genes, you are considered Black.
Some may say: why yes it does make sense to label a biracial person as Black because black genes are strong and well a person mixed with Black will have darker skin and therefore no longer qualify as White.
Okay even if we accept this argument, there are lots of people who do not look Black at all but are still referred to as Black *Cough Mari-cough-ah*. I am speaking about the White Passing.
The first time I came across this term-though I did not know it then-was in a Reader’s Digest story of a Black man who lived his life passing as White. Even his wife had no idea of this and it wasn’t until he was on his deathbed that his secret came out. My ten year old self found the story so intriguing and baffling. How is it possible that no one knew he was Black? Didn’t his children look Biracial? I realise now that he must have been a biracial man himself, and if so he was not passing as White.
One drop is so strong that not only are people with darker skin called Black, but those who look White are still not White but rather Black people passing as White. It is remarkable.
This issue was recently brought to the fore of my consciousness when I saw a headline about a singer called Hasley who is in her own words a White passing Black woman. I was quite confused because this woman looked quite White to me-not even biracial-just White. Turns out her father is half Black. This white woman who has three white grandparents and looks white says she is a woman of colour who passes for a White woman. Huh?
The headline took me back to 2009 when there was a reality show on BET called College Hill. One of the cast members was a White man with cornrows who I did not pay much attention to until a scene where I heard him say to another cast member “You know I’m Black right?” The details are fuzzy but I think he said his mother is Black and he spoke about how he doesn’t look Black. I was stunned. Wow I would never have guessed he was Black. Now I think about this differently.
A biracial person is White and Black. Due to the politics of the land, they are labelled Black because of their darker hue. If a product of an interracial relationship is Black because of the darker skin tone then surely a person who does not have this darker skin tone is White. What is all this White passing nonsense?
I daresay most racially mixed people (want to) identify as Black, even those with tenuous links to Blackness. Why? Because despite all the struggles, it is “cool” to be Black. Why be White and have to apologise for White privilege and Slavery when you can identify as Black and get to say Nigga whenever you want?
Derek Jeter is yet another person I would never have guessed was African American man until he was outed by Diddy. Who else is walking about looking like a Caucasian from the mountains of Caucasus but is really Black? Fret not, someone has helpfully compiled a list of celebrities most people don’t know are black.
All it takes is a drop.
Biracial identity is treated like the relationship between milk and coffee. A drop of coffee in a glass of milk will change the colour of milk ever slightly, whereas a drop of milk barely makes a difference to a cup of coffee (or does it? I don’t drink coffee or milk for that matter). Daft analogy, I know. I do dislike analogies of this nature, where people are compared to food or to keys and locks (you know what I’m talking about) but this does seem to be the case.
If the one drop rule was created by racists, when then do we work so hard to maintain it? Is it because we think it is reasonable? Is it because we need more people on our side?
Another incident that comes to mind is that of footballer Ross Barkley who was compared to a gorilla in an article in The Sun. At first it was a silly jibe-white man compares another white man to a gorilla. Then it was revealed that Ross Barkley has a Nigerian grandfather and bam! it became a racial slur. This man was White until someone called him a gorilla now he is a man with a Black grandfather.
White passing is not the same as people who look obviously biracial. I have always thought it was unfair to say a person is not Black enough because of their fair (not White) skin and curly hair. I also understand that biracial people are caught between two worlds and the Black community is more likely to feel like home. These points do not in any way contradict my earlier points. It is just interesting to me how the one drop rule works. You see someone and think they are White, until you find out they have a Black ancestor then it’s oh I didn’t know you were Black.
If people have to see your family tree or genealogy records to confirm your blackness then perhaps you are neither Black nor White passing. You are White, and that’s okay. (unless you have found the cure for cancer then come here my beautiful African sister)