Thursday, July 06, 2006

One Drop (Rule) Is Wrong

The last time I blogged on this type of topic, I got a sharp criticism from an African-American reader who felt I wasn't qualified to speak on such things because I'm white. Nevermind how racist that in itself is, it is how some people feel. So let me preface this post by saying I am qualified to speak on the following topic because I am the father of two biracial children.

First, some historical background via Wikipedia:
The one-drop theory (or one-drop rule) is a historical colloquial term for the standard, found throughout the United States of America, that holds that a person with even a tiny portion of non-white ancestry ("one drop of non-white blood") should be classified as "colored", especially for the purposes of laws forbidding interracial marriage. It is an ethnocentric concept based on the idea of human hierarchy. This notion of invisible/intangible membership in a "racial" group has seldom been applied to people of Native American ancestry (see Race in the United States for details). The notion has also been applied to the idea of solely black ancestry.

By 1925, almost every state had a one-drop law on the books, or something equivalent. These were the laws that gave power to bureaucrats like Walter Plecker of Virginia [8], Naomi Drake of Louisiana [9], and similar people around the country — people whose mission was to hunt down any families of mixed ancestry and shove them to the Black side of the color line.

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court, in its ruling on the case of Loving v. Virginia, conclusively invalidated Plecker's Virginia Racial Integrity Act, along with its key component, the one-drop rule, as unconstitutional. Despite this holding, the one-drop theory is still influential in U.S. society. Multiracial individuals with visible mixed European and African and/or Native American ancestry are often still considered non-white unless they explicitly declare themselves white or Anglo, and are typically identified instead as mixed-race, mulatto or mestizo, or Black or American Indian, for example. By contrast these standards are widely rejected by America's Latino community, the majority of whom are of mixed ancestry, but for whom their Latino cultural heritage is more important to their ethnic identities than "race". The one-drop rule is not generally applied to Latinos of mixed origin or to Arab-Americans.

So, keeping this in mind, it is troubling to me that One Drop Rule is even around... It's a way of thinking whose time has gone the way of the dodo and the dinosaur. It needs to die.

And this is my opinion only, but I believe One Drop Rule is racist. Yes, racist ... because it states that one racial heritage is dominant over the other even within a mixed-race genetic makeup. One Drop encourages a biracial or multiracial individual to choose one racial heritage over the other and downplay or deny the other -- supposedly for the good of the individual or to help them "fit in." As a social context, it is particularly insidious because often shame is used to batter the biracial individual into submission of the group- or collective-inspired racism. Mob rules thinking. It is wrong and should be called out for the terribly misguided racism it is. No one race or culture is any better than any other.

Fortunately, my sons have not faced this pressure yet. Austin is a fairly diverse city and interracial marriages and families are common here but there is racism, too -- from all sides. Someday, they may be encouraged to think that they're only Black. It may be from friends or coworkers or anybody, really.

My job as their parent is to teach them to embrace all of who they are. It's not about being white or black or even Apache. It's about being you, whatever that means. And my job (and my wife's) is to answer their questions about where they come from. If they want to know about African-American or even African culture, we will teach them. If they want to know about Native Americans, we will do the same. If they wanted to know about my Dutch ancestors, same thing.

Life is too short and confusing enough to be distracted by "racial identity issues." Simply be who you are -- ALL of who you are. My boys do not think of themselves as any one race -- they know they are mixed. But more important than that, they know they are loved.

That's really all that matters...isn't it?

Best Wishes,


Huertero said...

The rule of thumb here in NC is whatever the father is, that's what you are. I find that equally confusing and imbalanced.

Dirty Butter said...

I taught elementary school for 25 years. It was always awkward giving instructions each year for the standardized tests when they had to fill in the bubble for race. All I could do really was to tell the children to fill in the bubble they felt most comfortable filling in. For some of the students in the room, this was a real challenge. It's a shame we have to make such a big deal out of this, as if it defined who we are.

I'm old enough to remember when "colored" people who were light skinned "passed" for white, leaving their families behind completely, never to see them again. I guess that still happens to a lesser extent.

PS: I voted for you today on BLOG VILLAGE.

JerseyTjej said...

If it were only that easy, Allen. As a AA female raising biracial children in a predominately caucasian country, I can assure you that my children (who are fluent in the language and citizens by birthright are reminded at least 3 times a year as to what their ethnic heritage APPEARS to be. It is disheartning and painful to bear.

RachelsTavern said...

Allen I agree with you that the one drop rule is racist, but I don't agree with your reasoning. I think we have to be very careful to think about this in historical context.

The one drop rule was used to increase slave populations. It was also used promote the notion of fixed rigid racial categories, which is partly related to what you are saying. I just feel that your analysis reduces this to a psychological issue.

Allen said...

Ah, my apologies, Rachel. I certainly didn't mean to leave any of the (dispicable) slavery context out. I completely agree that One Drop Rule was used to increase the slavery populations and rigidly define racial categories, which in turn promoted racial isolationism.

There does not seem to be one positive thing whatsoever about One Drop Rule, especially in historical context.

Zen said...

Hey Allen
Long time no read. I've not been on BW too much.Blogging myself. I happened across your blog again while updating some links. Nice job here.

I agree on statement, the one drop rules is racist. I have also found that saddly at times Blacks themselves still use it. No one race is more important than another. We come from the same place, we go back to the same place.

I linked your blog. Hope the family & band is well.

Blog on!