Avoiding the One-Drop Rule

Avoiding the One-Drop Rule

The Harvard Advocate
Fall 2016

Eli Lee

This past January, I attended a concert at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. The audience in the church’s dimly lit basement was tattooed, bedecked in social justice slogans and, like most punk show crowds, predominantly white. Two hours into the show, a local hardcore band with both white and Black members took the stage. As they launched into their blistering set, I followed my instinct and, bobbing to the rhythm, started to work my way forward through the crowd. By the time the band had finished playing their first song, I had made significant progress toward the stage. That’s when the band’s lead singer leaned into the mic and yelled: “It’s fuckin’ 2016! BROWN PEOPLE TO THE FRONT!”

As the drummer counted in the next song of the set, I began to experience a minor identity crisis. I am a person of mixed Jewish and Vietnamese heritage, and my skin is several shades darker than that of the average Anglo- American. Indeed, even during the dimmest days of winter, my complexion never brightens beyond an even tan. But at that moment, I asked myself: am I brown or not? And if not, then what was I doing pushing myself towards the front of the crowd? I didn’t know the answer to the rst question—or maybe I couldn’t decide—and so I found myself frozen, rooted to my spot, unable to even pogo.

That confusion—that sense of misplacedness and strangeness in the face of a racial binary—is nothing new in America. Since anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional in 1967, the population of multiracial Americans has grown to represent nearly seven percent of the country. Today, multiracial America is expanding at a rate three times as fast as the country’s population at large…

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