More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-03-23 21:00Z by Steven

More Than Black? Multiracial Identity and the New Racial Order

Temple University Press
December 2001
280 pages
7×10; 1 figure
Paperback: EAN: 978-1-56639-909-8, ISBN: 1-56639-909-2

G. Reginald Daniel, Professor of Sociology
University of California at Santa Barbara

In the United States, anyone with even a trace of African American ancestry has been considered black. Even as the twenty-first century opens, a racial hierarchy still prevents people of color, including individuals of mixed race, from enjoying the same privileges as Euro-Americans. In this book, G. Reginald Daniel argues that we are at a cross-roads, with members of a new multiracial movement pointing the way toward equality.

Tracing the centuries-long evolution of Eurocentrism, a concept geared to protecting white racial purity and social privilege, Daniel shows how race has been constructed and regulated in the United States.  The so-called one-drop rule (i.e., hypodescent) obligated individuals to identify as black or white, in effect erasing mixed-race individuals from the social landscape. For most of our history, many mixed-race individuals of African American descent have attempted to acquire the socioeconomic benefits of being white by forming separate enclaves or “passing.”  By the 1990s, however, interracial marriages became increasingly common, and multiracial individuals became increasingly political, demanding institutional changes that would recognize the reality of multiple racial backgrounds and challenging white racial privilege.

More Than Black? regards the crumbling of the old racial order as an opportunity for substantially more than an improvement in U.S. race relations; it offers no less than a radical transformation of the nation’s racial consciousness and the practice of democracy.

Read the introduction here.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
    • Part I: White Over Black
    • 1. Eurocentrism: The Origin of the Master Racial Project
    • 2. Either Black or White: The United State and the Binary Racial Project
  • Part II: Black No More
    • 3. White by Definition: Multiracial Identity and the Binary Racial Project
    • 4. Black by Law: Multiracial Identity and the Ternary Racial Project
  • Part III: More than Black
    • 5. The New Multiracial Identity: Both Black and White
    • 6. The New Multiracial Identity: Neither Black nor White
    • 7. Black by Popular Demand: Multiracial Identity and the Decennial Census
  • Part IV: Black No More or More than Black?
    • 8. The Illusion of Inclusion : From White Domination to White Hegemony
    • 9. The New Millennium: Toward a New Master Racial Project
  • Epilogue: Beyond Black or White: A New United States Racial Project
  • Notes
  • Index
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Cultural Inversion and the One-Drop Rule: An Essay on Biology, Racial Classification, and the Rhetoric of Racial Transcendence

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-03 02:58Z by Steven

Cultural Inversion and the One-Drop Rule: An Essay on Biology, Racial Classification, and the Rhetoric of Racial Transcendence

Albany Law Review
Volume 72, Issue 4 (2009)
Pages 909-928

Deborah W. Post, Professor Emeritus of Law
Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg School of Law
Central Islip, New York

The great paradox in contemporary race politics is exemplified in the narrative constructed by and about President Barack Obama. This narrative is all about race even as it makes various claims about the diminished significance of race: the prospect of racial healing, the ability of a new generation of Americans to transcend race or to choose their own identity, and the emergence of a postracial society. While I do not subscribe to the post-racial theories that have been floated in the press and other media, I do believe that something of great cultural significance occurred which made the candidacy and the election of Barack Obama possible. This essay is an attempt on my part to consider what that change might have been by examining the relationship between science and social change, language and cultural categories, and the role law has played, if any, in dismantling the structures of racism.

What I have to say has very little to do with biology, except to the extent that racial classification is a cultural practice that sometimes deploys biological arguments strategically. Early in the Twentieth century sociologists and anthropologists noted that in the United States, race was more a matter of caste than class and that, unlike other caste systems, it is not cultural, but “biological.” In a racial caste, one sociologist argued, “the criterion is primarily physiognomic, usually chromatic, with socio-economic differences implied.”  Another noted that “American caste is pinned not to cultural but to biological features—to color, features, hair form, and the like.” Biology was used in this early sociological literature on race in a way that made it synonymous with physical appearance or physical characteristics. In politics and legal discourse at the time, racial purity was about “blood” and rules of descent…

…In this article, my thesis is simple. If racial caste has been upended by changes in legal rules that created a hierarchical racial structure, its demise also has been hastened by the use of symbols, a strategy of cultural inversion with respect to the meaning of race.  The operative terms of a centuries-old debate have been inverted. Instead of policing racial purity with arguments about blood and biology or the modern version of them, DNA and genes, these instruments of exclusion, the tools of white supremacists and segregationists, have been used effectively, most recently by Barack Obama, to demonstrate the physical connection between groups that are still treated discursively, politically and socially, as racially distinct…

…The movement to escape the one-drop rule, the rule that examines blood lines as far back as five generations or more, if that is what the multiracial movement is all about, is not, as far as I know, a movement that began in the black community. A major proponent is a white woman, Susan Graham, founder of “Project RACE,” which is the acronym for Reclassify All Children Equally.  What Susan Graham demands is that the children of parents who come from different races be acknowledged as the product of both groups. In other words, this white mother of a child or children whose father is a black man demands that the public, the discourse, the political  instrumentalities, the private institutions, acknowledge the status of her child as white as well as black…

…The demand for multiracial identity for the children of interracial marriage, however, may be explained in terms of a desire for status as long as we live in a society in which there is still a clear racial hierarchy. The demand that multiracial children be recognized as partly white did not come from blacks.  Nor is it surprising that Susan Graham, a major advocate for the multiracial category on the United States Census found an ally in Newt Gingrich, who opined that such a category might “‘be an important step toward transcending racial division.’” The enthusiasm for such alternative classifications leads skeptics to believe that this system of reclassification and the rhetoric of transcendence will make it easy to ignore the reality and the structure of racism.

It may be that the promotion of a multiracial identity provides some white parents with the assurance that they have not been rejected by their own children. Their children are part of them and, therefore, partly white. People who cross racial lines to marry do not leave behind all of their attitudes towards race; their internalized assumptions about racial characteristics and racial hierarchy can be a source of misunderstanding, a vulnerability that at the very worst can injure or divide family members…

Read the entire article here.

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

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-04-16 01:15Z by Steven

“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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Crossing the Color Line: Racial Migration and the One-Drop Rule, 1600–1860

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2010-04-13 02:15Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Racial Migration and the One-Drop Rule, 1600–1860

Minnesota Law Review
Volume 91, Number 3 (February 2007)
pages 592-656

Daniel J. Sharfstein, Professor of Law
Vanderbilt University

“It ain’t no lie, it’s a natural fact, / You could have been colored without being so black…”
—Sung by deck hands, Auburn, Alabama, 1915–161

“They are our enemies; we marry them.”
—African Proverb

In 1819 a Scotsman named James Flint crossed the Atlantic Ocean, made his way from New York to Pittsburgh, sailed down the Ohio, and settled for eighteen months in Jeffersonville, Indiana, just opposite Louisville, Kentucky. His letters home described everything from native trees and shrubs to the “taciturnity” of American speech, “adapted to business more than to intellectual enjoyment.” Soon after arriving in Jeffersonville, Flint recounted the time when a “negro man and a white woman came before the squire of a neighbouring township, for the purpose of being married.” The official refused, citing a prohibition on “all sexual intercourse between white and coloured people, under a penalty for each offence.” Then he thought the better of it. He “suggested, that if the woman could be qualified to swear that there was black blood in her, the law would not apply. The hint was taken,” Flint wrote, “and the lancet was immediately applied to the Negro’s arm. The loving bride drank the blood, made the necessary oath, and his honour joined their hands, to the great satisfaction of all parties.”…

Ideologies of racial purity and pollution are as old as America, and so is interracial mixing. Yet the one-drop rule did not, as many have suggested, make all mixed-race people black. From the beginning, African Americans assimilated into white communities across the South. Often, becoming white did not require the deception normally associated with racial “passing”; whites knew that certain people were different and let them cross the color line anyway. These communities were not islands of racial tolerance. They could be as committed to slavery, segregation, and white supremacy as anywhere else, and so could their newest members—it was one of the things that made them white. The history of the color line is one in which people have lived quite comfortably with contradiction.

This continual process of “racial migration” upends some of the most basic assumptions about race in the United States. When Southern colonies, and later states, restricted the civil rights and livelihoods of African Americans, such measures did not simply widen the gap between white and black. Rather, these obstacles to life and liberty pushed people across the color line into whiteness. At the same time, courts and communities made it increasingly difficult to reclassify people as black after they had been living as white. With an exponentially increasing number of people who were vulnerable to reclassification, the stability of Southern communities depended on what was in essence a massive grandfathering of white people with African ancestry. This racial amnesty was accomplished through court decisions that discouraged overzealous policing of the color line; through scientific theories and popular beliefs that African ancestry would always be visible on people’s bodies; and most importantly, through small-town Southern traditions of acceptance, secrecy, and denial.

This Article reconstructs the meaning and purpose of the one-drop rule, setting it within a larger history of racial migration. Most legal scholars casually describe the rule as the American regime of race without considering its history. Other scholars have attempted to trace the rule’s origin to the emergence of the cotton economy in the 1830s, the sectional crisis of the 1850s, or Reconstruction. Still others emphasize that most Southern state legislatures did not formally adopt one-drop racial definitions until the 1910s and 1920s.  Like an aging movie star, the rule depends on soft focus to maintain its allure. Amid the vagaries of origin, few suggest anything but that people followed the one-drop rule, as they would any other bright-line rule. But the reality of racial migration reveals that the one-drop rule did not keep whites racially pure; rather, it enabled them to believe that they were.

The Article proceeds in two parts. Part I examines the one drop rule in colonial North America and the early American republic.  Theories of innate racial difference transmitted through “blood” existed well before Jamestown, leading influential scholars to interpret almost reflexively early laws defining race and slave status to be synonymous with the one-drop rule. But the rhetoric of purity was always undermined by the realities of European, African, and Native American mixture and of a permeable color line. To the extent that legislators and judges showed confidence in the salience of race, the assumption of an impassable racial divide actually made it easier for some people of African descent to become white.

Southern courts and communities did not strictly define the color line because there was little reason to go beyond slavery’s proxy of racial boundaries, and an inflexible racial regime only threatened to interfere with the smooth functioning of a slave society. The one-drop rule’s transformation from ideological current to legal bright line and presumed social reality is in essence a story of freedom. Part II examines the thirty years preceding the Civil War. The prospect of freedom for people of African descent hastened the one-drop rule’s rise as whites attempted to preserve social hierarchies and property relations in the absence of slavery. While legal scholars identify this period as a time when tightening definitions fixed the status of mixedrace people as black, I contend that rather than establish or enforce a one-drop rule, efforts to tighten the color line pushed many mixed-race people into whiteness, sometimes with the full knowledge of their communities and often in spite of court rulings or publicity. Even as this racial migration continued, however, the rule’s growing ideological prevalence in the free North would presage its eventual codification in the South after slavery’s demise. During this period of ascendancy, the rule’s ostensible opponents played an important part in propagating it. Abolitionists seldom questioned white racial purity, instead relying on the one-drop rule as a symbol of Southern cruelty and of the threats that slavery posed to Northern whites. One might argue that today’s legal scholars depend on the rule in much the same way….

The practical consequences of this history lie in the fact that every area of the law that engages with race has a foundation in the one-drop rule. The rule acts as a metric for defining group membership, allocating race-based entitlements, awarding child custody, determining the existence of discrimination and monitoring the progress of remedial measures, and theorizing racial and other group identities. If the one-drop rule functioned differently from what its unambiguous terms suggest—if, as I argue, it expressed only a superficial commitment to racial purity, all the while fostering racial migration—then we have to rethink what race means. The magnitude of racial migration is beginning to emerge through the field of population genetics, with scientists estimating that millions of Americans who identify as white have African ancestors within recent historic memory. As people identifying as white begin to claim minority status in college admissions and employment settings, African “blood” is losing its ability to define race, determine civil rights violations, and fashion remedies. The already formidable tasks of measuring disparate racial impact or minority vote dilution risk becoming impossible when group boundaries blur.

Although the history of racial migration and the one-drop rule appears to threaten civil rights policies, ultimately it may strengthen them by forcing definitions of minority status to shift from blood to a shared history of discrimination. “African blood” is not unique to blacks. Centuries of racial migration reveal that more than anything, what fixed African Americans as a discrete group was the fact that they were discriminated against. In 1940 W. E.  B. Du Bois wrote, “I recognize [black] quite easily and with full legal sanction; the black man is a person who must ride ‘Jim Crow’ in Georgia.” Many people of African descent could and did avoid racial oppression by becoming white. When we regard the legal category of “African American” through the lens of a shared history of discrimination, the tidy parallel that “color-blind constitutionalism” draws between race-based discrimination and remediation falters. While discrimination against African Americans was premised on innate blood-borne inferiority and the preservation of racial purity, measures designed to benefit them are much more inherently remedial than many, including the Supreme Court, have been willing to suppose. Remedial measures acknowledge a specific history, not blood.

Today we inhabit a legal regime that is the accretion of centuries of myth and amnesia. Unexamined and unchallenged, the one-drop rule remains a fixture of the civil rights landscape. The rule’s stark language carries the appearance of unassailable authority. Its sheer inhumanity has made it an easy foil for people committed to uprooting racism, so there has been little reason to examine its history. But assuming the rule’s efficacy has only continued to spread the idea of white racial purity without undermining it. Just beyond the one-drop rule’s rhetoric is a reality of mixture and migration. It is hidden in plain sight…

Read the entire article here.

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The End of the One-Drop Rule? Labeling of Multiracial Children in Black Intermarriages

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-03-08 20:37Z by Steven

The End of the One-Drop Rule? Labeling of Multiracial Children in Black Intermarriages

Sociological Forum
Volume 20, Number 1 (March, 2005)
pages 35-67
Print ISSN: 0884-8971, Online ISSN: 1573-7861
DOI: 10.1007/s11206-005-1897-0

Wendy D. Roth, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of British Columbia, Canada

The identity choices of multiracial individuals with Black heritage have traditionally been limited in America by the one-drop rule, which automatically designated them as Black. This paper evaluates the rules contemporary influence and argues that, with increasing interracial marriage, options in racial identification are now available to this group. Using the 5% 1990 and 2000 Public Use Microdata Samples, I consider how children from Black intermarriages are racially identified by their families and, using 2000 data, evaluate theoretical hypotheses to explain identification processes. The results show that most families with Black intermarriages reject the one-drop rule, but that Black–White families create unique interracial options, the implications of which are considered.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Race and the “One Drop Rule” in the Post-Reconstruction South

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-25 20:25Z by Steven

Race and the “One Drop Rule” in the Post-Reconstruction South

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners

Victoria E. Bynum, Emeritus Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

Many people, perhaps most, think of “race” as an objective reality. Historically, however, racial categorization has been unstable, contradictory, and arbitrary. Consider the term “passing.” Most of us immediately picture a light-skinned person who is “hiding” their African ancestry. Many would go further and accuse that person of denying their “real” racial identity. Yet few people would accuse a dark-skinned person who has an Anglo ancestor of trying to pass for “black,” and thereby denying their “true” Anglo roots!

So why is a white person with an African ancestor presumed to be “really” black? In fact, in this day of DNA testing, it’s become increasingly clear that many more white-identified people have a “drop” or two of African ancestry than most ever imagined. Are lots of white folks (or are they black?) “passing,” then, without even knowing it?..

Read the entire article here.

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What Does “Black” Mean? Exploring the Epistemological Stranglehold of Racial Categorization

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-22 00:17Z by Steven

What Does “Black” Mean? Exploring the Epistemological Stranglehold of Racial Categorization

Critical Sociology
Vol. 28, No. 1-2 (2002)
pages 101-121
DOI: 10.1177/08969205020280010801

David L. Brunsma, Professor of Sociology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Illinois at Chicago

The “check all that apply” approach to race on the 2000 census has ignited a conceptual debate over the meaning and usefulness of racial categories. This debate is most intense over the category “black” because of the historically unique way that blackness has been defined. Though the lived reality of many people of color has changed over the past three decades, we question whether the construct black has mirrored these changes and if “black” remains a valid analytic or discursive unit today. While black racial group membership has historically been defined using the one-drop rule, we test the contemporary salience of this classification norm by examining racial identity construction among multiracial people. We find that that the one-drop rule has lost the power to determine racial identity, while the meaning of black is becoming increasingly multidimensional, varied, and contextually specific. Ultimately, we argue that social, cultural and economic changes in post-Civil Rights America necessitate a re-evaluation of the validity of black as social construct and re-assessment of its’ continued use in social science research.

Read the entire article here.

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one-drop rule

Posted in Definitions on 2009-11-16 18:34Z by Steven

The one-drop rule is a historical colloquial term for a belief among some people in the United States that a person with any trace of African ancestry is black.

See also: hypodescent.


For more information, see Winthrop D. Jordan’s (Paul Spickard, ed.) “Historical Origins of the One-Drop Racial Rule in the United States,” in the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies (Volume 1, Issue 1, 2014).

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Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-26 01:59Z by Steven

Racial Mixture and Affirmative Action: The Cases of Brazil and the United States

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 5
December 2003

Thomas E. Skidmore, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of History Emeritus
Brown University

For me, as a historian of Brazil, North America’s “one-drop rule” has always seemed odd. No other society in this hemisphere has defined its racial types in such absolutist terms. David Hollinger, like many American historians before him, is clearly intrigued by this apparently unique “approach to the question of ethnoracial mixture.” How can we account for it? How could such a different racial classification have arisen in North America and not in any of the many other European colonial experiments in the New World?

Hollinger cites three features that in combination allegedly made U.S. racial evolution different. The first is a regime that tolerated slavery and thereby produced a significant population of slave descent. The second is massive immigration that enriched American society. The third is survival of an Indian population, even if only in token numbers.

But Hollinger examines the influence of these three factors on racial attitudes and behavior in the United States alone. If we add one other country, Brazil, to the picture, we find something rather startling. All three of Hollinger’s conditions also obtained in Brazil. Yet they did not produce the one-drop rule. Something else must have been at work.

If I had been writing this commentary a half century ago, I would have stressed the enormous difference between the two countries in the racial status given to the offspring of mixed unions.  Throughout the United States (multi-racial societies emerged in Charleston and New Orleans, but only temporarily), the one-drop rule defined mixed bloods (even the lightest mulattos) as black. In Brazil, by contrast, racial attribution depended on how the person looked and on the particular circumstances of that person, which led to the racial fluidity for which Brazil is famous

Read the entire article here.

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Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-19 20:20Z by Steven

Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

SPSP 2010
The Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology
2010-01-28 through 2010-01-30
Las Vegas, Nevada

Arnold K. Ho
Harvard University

Daniel T. Levin
Vanderbilt University

Jim Sidanius, Professor
Psychology and African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University

Many have argued that the increasing rate of intermarriage between racial minorities and Whites and resulting patterns of biracial identification will lead to the dissolution of the American racial hierarchy (e.g., Alba & Nee, 2003; Lee & Bean, 2004; 2007a; 2007b; Thornton, 2009). However, little empirical evidence exists on perceptions of new racial identities that diverge from older notions of race purity and the “one drop” rule. We tested whether a rule of hypodescent, whereby biracial targets are assigned the status of their subordinate parent group, would govern perceptions of Asian-White and Black-White targets. Participants morphed faces from Asian to White, Black to White, White to Asian, and White to Black. Consistent with a rule of hypodescent, a face needed to be lower in proportion minority to be considered minority than proportion White to be considered White. In addition, the threshold for being considered White was higher for Black-White biracials than for Asian-White biracials, a pattern consistent with the structure of the current racial hierarchy. Finally, an independent racial categorization task confirmed that hypodescent and the current racial hierarchy guide how biracial targets are perceived. Potential distal (e.g., fear of contagion) and proximate (e.g., racism) causes of these phenomena are discussed.

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