What’s DNA Got to Do with It

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2019-02-17 18:09Z by Steven

What’s DNA Got to Do with It

The Progressive: A voice for peace, social justice, and the common good

Starita Smith
Denton, Texas


I see similarities between Elizabeth Warren’s situation and that of many black people.

As U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., campaigns for a possible 2020 presidential run, she reminds me of some long-standing issues about racial identification.

Warren, whom President Donald Trump has pejoratively labeledPocahontas” for claiming she has American Indian heritage, took a DNA test to prove it. When the results showed she has hardly any, she was criticized for falsely claiming native ancestry. Some speculate this may hurt her presidential aspirations.

Warren’s predicament points up the historical, legal and cultural arbitrariness of racial categories. For example, if Warren had proclaimed she had even one African ancestor, she would be defined as black legally and socially in most of the U.S. That’s because our nation uses the one-drop rule, or hypodescent, as the definition of who is black…

…The rule has been used in court repeatedly. One of the most famous cases involved Susie Guillory Phipps, a Louisiana woman, who presumed she and all her ancestors were white, yet when she tried to get a passport, she discovered that she was listed as black on her birth certificate. According to The New York Times, because she had a black ancestor – an enslaved woman, 222 years back in her family history – she was black…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Louisiana Repeals Black Blood Law

Posted in Articles, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-05 15:18Z by Steven

Louisiana Repeals Black Blood Law

The New York Times

Frances Frank Marcus, Special to the New York Times

NEW ORLEANS, July 5—  Gov. David C. Treen today signed legislation repealing a Louisiana statute that established a mathematical formula to determine if a person was black.

The law establishing the formula, passed by state legislators in 1970, said that anyone having one thirty-second or less of “Negro blood” should not be designated as black by Louisiana state officials.

The legislator who wrote the law repealing the formula, Lee Frazier, a 34-year-old Democrat representing a racially mixed district in New Orleans, said recently that he had done so because of national attention focused on the law by a highly publicized court case here.

The case involves the vigorous but thus far unsuccessful efforts of Susie Guillory Phipps, the wife of a well-to-do white businessman in Sulphur, La., to change the racial description on her birth certificate from “col.,” an abbreviation for “colored,” to “white.”…

…Mr. Frazier said that in the future it would be possible for a person to change birth records by sworn statements from family members, doctors and others.

He said his research showed that the designation of race on official documents in this area from the late 1700’s and that its purpose was “to keep control over land ownership, to keep the landowner from having to share his land with his illegitimate children who were family members.”

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

What Makes you Black?

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-05 14:12Z by Steven

What Makes you Black?

Ebony Magazine
Volume 38, Number 3 (January 1983)
pages 115-118

Vague definition of race is the basis for court battles

Imagine going to get a passport so you and your spouse can take a vacation in South America. Its all a formality, you reason; people just want to make sure you’re who and what you say you are. You fill out the form and, to your bewilderment, a clerk tells you she can’t give you the passport because you’re of a different race than what you claim to be.

It happened to 48-year-old Susie Guillory Phipps, who lives in Sulphur, La. She had been thinking all along that she was White, but her birth certificate indicated she was “Colored.”

“I was sick,” she later told reporters. “I couldn’t believe it.” She said she went home crying and told her husband she didn’t want to take the trip. It was the beginning of a 5-year court battle to get the State of Louisiana to change her birth certificate and the certificates of her six brothers and sisters. She also wants the states racial classification law declared unconstitutional. The law, approved by the Louisiana legislature in 1970, states that a person is Black if he or she has “1/32 Negro blood.” Louisiana is the only state with a race classification law.

So far, Mrs. Phipps has spent some $20,000 to change her racial status to White. A genealogist hired by the state has concluded she is 3/32 Black.

Mrs. Phipps’ case (Susie Smith vs. the State of Louisiana), which might be decided very soon, is the latest of a number of similar cases that have occurred over the years. A celebrated case developed during the 1920s when Leonard Kip Rhinelander failed to get an annulment of his marriage to Alice Jones, who admitted to having “some Negro blood.” Rhinelander, the son of millionaire society leader Philip Rhinelander, contended his wife deceived him about her race before their marriage. In a later case, Ralph Dupas, a prizefighter who fought and lost to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1963, was barred from fighting Whites in Louisiana in the late 1950s when word surfaced that he was Black. (Louisiana at that time didn’t allow interracial athletics). He failed in his bid to prove he was White. Earlier, another Louisiana prizefighter, Bernard Docusen, wasn’t allowed to fight Whites in Louisiana because of reports that his mother was Black. He was later recognized as White when it was discovered his mother was White.

Just what does make a person Black? The fundamental problem here, according to experts interviewed for and cited in this article, is that there is no generally accepted scientific definition of race. Another related problem is the inconsistency in the classification of people in the three traditional racial groupings — Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid. In current practice, Black genes define and dominate White genes. One Black ancestor, for example, makes an Anglo-Saxon or a Chinese person “Black.” But, for some strange reason, the rule doesn’t work the other way, and one Chinese or Anglo-Saxon ancestor doesn’t make a Black person Chinese or Anglo-Saxon. And it is interesting to note that if the “one-Black” rule were applied to the other races, the racial composition of the United States would change markedly. Dr. Munro Edmonson, a professor of anthropology at Tulane University, says the average American White person has five percent traceable Black genes and the average American Black person has 25 percent traceable White genes…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

Of Susie Guillory Phipps and Chief Redbone: The Mutability of Race

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-09-28 02:26Z by Steven

Of Susie Guillory Phipps and Chief Redbone: The Mutability of Race

Newhouse News Service

Jonathan Tilove

Black is black and white is white, but what about Susie Guillory Phipps?

Phipps looks white. She always thought she was white. So did her first and second husbands. Until, at the age of 43, she discovered she was 3/32nds black and therefore legally black according to the state of Louisiana.

And what about the Ramapough Mountain People of New Jersey? They have long been described as a predominantly black people of mixed race. But they consider themselves Indians and are asking the federal government for official recognition as a tribe, status that could entitle them to a casino gambling franchise 30 miles from Manhattan.

When it comes to race and ethnicity in America, it can all get very complicated depending on who is defining whom, and why. People are not always what they appear to be. People are sometimes not what they want to be. In reality, race is as much a matter of politics as biology; ethnicity as much an expression of fashion as fate. It can be transient, changing from time to time and place to place.

Sylvia Yu Gonzalez, 22, is a Mexican-Korean-American. She spent her early years in the barrio in Phoenix but when she was 12 moved to San Diego where she attended mostly white schools. On the advice of a guidance counselor, she identified herself on school forms as Mexican-American for future affirmative action purposes. But by the time she headed off to Berkeley for college, “I pretty much perceived myself as white.”.

Berkeley, the citadel of multiculturalism, was less forgiving. Gonzalez found that in their lust for diversity, people insisted she identify herself racially, and that white obviously wouldn’t wash. “It was really painful to me.”

Gonzalez says she turned against her white friends but didn’t want to choose between being Mexican or Korean, reluctant to give up either. Instead she chose the company of blacks and American Indians. But a couple of years ago she found out about the Multicultural Interracial Student Coalition at Berkeley, an organization of mixed-race students of all descriptions. She had finally found a place “where I could bring all of myself.” She now identifies herself as multiracial…

…It is with blacks that any fluid notions of race and ethnicity run splat into a wall. It is the iron law of American race relations– the so-called one-drop rule. Anyone with any known African black ancestry (therefore theoretically having at least one drop of African black blood) is black.

Period. And the rule has an implicit corollary, according to sociologist F. James Davis: “It’s better to be anything than black.”

Davis, the author of Who Is Black?, says the one-drop rule is the effective standard, whether by statute or case law, in every state of the union except Hawaii, where being mixed-race is the rule rather than the exception.

But this stark line between black and white cannot undo some rather basic genetic facts of life. Physical anthropologists have estimated that about a quarter of the genes of American blacks come from white ancestors and up to 5 percent of the genes of the white population are from African ancestors…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,