28 August 2008

Be the Change

or the Question
or the Discourse.

OK. I'll start here. If one parent is "white" and the other parent is "black", what is the rule or convention that labels her/him African American? Why is the "black" part stickier than the "white"?

I'm looking for thorough response here, i.e., give me the history.

*Image borrowed from this web page


  1. This looks consistent with my understanding of the issue:


    (PS: I'm still your biggest fan! xoxo K)

  2. Yes. The "one-drop" rule. I'm familiar with it. My question was imprecise.

    Let me try again: how does the one-drop rule remain a viable meaning-making tool in 2008?

  3. I don't think it does, not in this post-Human Genome Project age.

    I'm feeling more and more inclined, myself, to view "race" in constructionist terms... maybe in the 21st century it will become all about image, since proportions of drops will one day be literally measurable—and may have little bearing on appearance?

    I was thinking about race vis-a-vis image these past few days, comparing the Denver convention to the 1964 convention, and thinking about the founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

    "Ella's Song" has been going through my head, as a result, and I've been musing on the fact that Ella Baker spoke about when the killing of black men, of black mothers' sons, would be as important... and now we have the possibility of the country's most important political position being filled by a... oh, wait a minute—he's not a black mother's son!

    What do you do with that? Matrilineality clearly doesn't apply to blackness as it does to Jewishness... So we're back to "one-drop" rules? That paradigm is on its way out.

    Of course in this very first post-HGP-age generation, it'll be harder to put any credibility behind the notion that Barack Obama is black only because that's how he wants to present himself...

    That's as far as I've gone with any of these ideas. And none of them answer your original question, anyway.

  4. Don't have any rationale to offer here for why the 'one-drop' rule persists, other than it's tradition at this point, and a way of maintaining white privilege. After all, if it worked in reverse, i.e., one drop of white blood makes you white, the whole racist system would collapse overnight. However, the phenomenon is truly bizarre, as khrysso pointed out. The patent injustice of this has been before me for decades now. Is there a creative way of raising the conversation and showing it for what it is? I remember you and I were having this conversation back in the spring, when Obama gave his 'race' speech. That this is such a big deal has everything to do with where people focus there attention, because it's true that like every other president that's come before him, he's a *man* with a *white* mother, whatever *that* means. Not hating on him ... it's just what's so.


What do you feel about what you just read?