“If You’re Half Black, You’re Just Black”: Reflected Appraisals and the Persistence of the One-Drop Rule

“If You’re Half Black, You’re Just Black”: Reflected Appraisals and the Persistence of the One-Drop Rule

Sociological Quarterly
Volume 51 Issue 1 (Winter 2010)
Pages 96 – 121
Published Online: 2010-01-15
DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01162.x

Nikki Khanna, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Vermont

Despite growing interest in multiracial identity, much of the research remains atheoretical and limited in its approach to measuring identity. Taking a multidimensional approach to identity and drawing on reflected appraisals (how they think others see them), I examine racial identity among black-white adults in the South and the lingering influence of the one-drop rule. Most respondents internally identify as black and when asked to explain these black identities, they describe how both blacks and whites see them as black. I argue that the one-drop rule still shapes racial identity, namely through the process of reflected appraisals.

…To address this gap in the literature, I draw on interview data with 40 black-white biracial adults currently living in the South and examine how reflected appraisals shape their racial identities. Because I am looking at racial identity among people with black ancestry, I also look at how the one-drop rule influences the reflected appraisal process (and hence identity). Few studies seriously engage reflected appraisals as a determinant of racial identity, and none examine the way in which the one-drop rule affects reflected appraisals. Additionally, I interview black-white biracial people who are currently living in the South for two reasons. First, the one-drop rule is historically rooted in Southern slavery and the Jim Crow segregation in the South, and recent empirical research suggests that the one-drop rule continues to shape black identities in the South (Harris and Sim 2002; Brunsma 2005, 2006).  Second, little attention has been given to this region in previous studies. While quantitative studies suggest that the one-drop rule still impacts identity in the South, little qualitative work examines black-white identity within this context (see Rockquemore and Brunsma 2002a for an exception)….

Read the entire article here.

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