Who’s White? Who’s Black? Who Knows?

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-13 22:29Z by Steven

Who’s White? Who’s Black? Who Knows?

Time Magazine: Healthland
Friday, 2010-12-10

Jeffrey Kluger, Senior Editor

Never mind what you’ve heard. Halle Berry was not the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was actually the 74th white one. And never mind all this talk about America electing its first black President;  Barack Obama is actually the 44th white man to hold the job.

That, at any rate, is as fair a conclusion as any, given that Berry and Obama and millions like them are the products of one black parent and one white one. And yet it’s a conclusion that almost no one ever reaches. Part-black generally means all-black in Americans’ minds. Just as part-Asian or part-Hispanic or part-anything-else usually puts individuals in those minority-groups’ camps. Such a curious bias is as old as the nation itself, and a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology illustrates just how stubborn it is—and suggests just what may be behind it.

It was in 1662 that the colony of Virginia first tried to codify the legal definition of people whose racial pedigree was less than completely pure. To make things simple in a land in which plantation owners were already taking sexual liberties with their slaves, the lawmakers established what they called the “one-drop” rule—also known as hypodescent—declaring that any person with mixed blood who resulted from such a pairing would be assigned the race of the nonwhite parent…

…But this much can be said for the folks who wrote such nasty rules: They may have been no better than most other Americans, but they were no worse either, at least in their tendency to apply the hypodescent rule in their own minds, often unconcsiously. To test how this phenomenon applies today, a team of Harvard University psychologists led by Ph.D. student Arnold K. Ho gathered a sample group of black, white and Asian volunteers and showed them computer-generated images of individuals designed to look either black-white or Asian-white. They also showed them family trees that depicted various degrees of racial commingling…

Read the entire article here.
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