In a black studies course taught by an anti-black African adjacent “professor,” I, along with, my classmates were encouraged to adopt the one-drop rule.
“She is black,” he said with an authority not vested in him.
The “she” he was referencing was none other than Cardi B.
Now, to him, an Indian man on a stride toward whiteness, Cardi B. and others of African descent, are black. This distinction does not reference the prodigious state of the black diaspora, but to delineate a line in the sand between his “model minority” status and those of African descent.
How the One Dropped Rule was “Dropped” Upon Us
The one drop rule is of western origin and functions to separate whites from those deemed “other.”
The rule also functions to separate non-black persons of color from “blacks.”
Therefore, the one-drop rule services the African-adjacent not the African person.
For the black person displaced Africa it is imperative to approach the one-drop rule with caution; this “Drop” does not indicate diaspora but indicates division.
In other countries there are numerous racial categories, however, the same fact remains the same–whites, or those with lighter skin, experience superior treatment to those with darker skin. Thus, though overtly enforced in the United States, the one-drop rule remains intact globally where varying degrees of black blood determine one’s quality of life and representation.
Cyntonia Brown and What it Means to Cosign the One-drop Rule as a Black Woman
To cosign to the one-drop rule as a black woman is to accept black representation by those who enjoy the privilege of an exoticized blackness. Specifically, it is to accept Yara Shahidi, Zoe Saldana, Zendaya, or even Shailene Woodley as representatives of a black femininity erased in adopting the one-drop rule. The one drop rule enables invisibility in creating a wide spectrum for our oppressors to choose from with regard to black representation. This spectrum evokes the same hierarchy that foments black oppression and inevitably puts those with darker skin at the bottom. So to adopt the one drop rule is to cosign the continued oppression of black people– to appropriate our experience and deem our own bodies not worthy to represent our own narratives.
Case in point: Cyntoia Brown, a recent symbol of criminal justice. Brown, a fair-skinned, long-haired woman, possesses the attributes often seen on the big and small screen as lead actrss in a black series, sitcom, or romantic comedy. Though incarcerated because she is black, Brown personifies the aesthetic or the “kind” of young black woman that is “not supposed to be in prison.”It took Alice Johnson’s status as grandmother to initiate what is now unfolding for Brown.
The idea that some people deserve incarceration, crippling poverty, and societal invisibility remain largely vested in color. Specifically, what I mean here is that the one-drop makes it so that the one-drop of black blood subjects the mixed race individual to mirror the misfortune that often befalls his or her darker counterparts but also services as the faction of his or her darker counterparts that doesn’t quite deserve the detriment of “darkness.” The one-drop rule incites the masses to celebrate Cyntoia and forget about the less marketable girl/woman left to rot in the system that flourishes in her disenfranchisement.
Color does not Constitute Blackness: Redefining Blackness
I do want to say that my assertions do not speak to the Fredi Washingtons of the world who irrefutably adopt their blackness to detriment of assimilatory motives.
In the same breath, folk like Tom Legend, Tom Lemon, or even Jay-Z, are also not black, as they are merely agents for their oppressors.
White ideology employs black puppets like Lemon and Jay-Z who though function under the physiognomy of blackness, function to ensure the stagnancy of white hegemony.
In this same breath, I know that many brethren on the continent of Africa consider the ADA, or the African displaced in America as inherently “mixed,” or “colored.” While this certainly is true for many ADA’s, the one drop rule is not reciprocal. One drop of white blood does not make you white, and to deem what happened centuries prior without consent relevant in defining blackness, is to place an underserving emphasis on whiteness
White hegemony proclaims blackness as skin color—a series of behaviors— a degenerate lifestyle— all of which substantiate racist claims of black inferiority. White hegemony also states one-drop of black blood makes you black in the same breath that hegemonic forces implement the out of sight out of mind rule with regards to the white blood running through the veins of black people.Thus, it is imperative that we as a community compose a definition and understanding of black identity beyond the confines of the western imagination.
I often revisit the mis-teachings of my so-called professor and access his behavior as mimicking that of a global colonizer. His words imposed the idea that being of African descent, not one’s allegiance to black culture, or what one has done for black people, constitutes blackness. Basically, that one is black because they aren’t white. This ideology is a simple solution for a problem festered over centuries into a complexity beyond words.
In re-defining blackness, it is a necessity to acknowledge the line of demarcation between who is tossed in with black people when convenient (census and applications reflect this) and those who irrevocably function as black and expand from there.
It is not to say that color is not important but that melanin does not connotate blackness in singularity. In other words, having melanin does not make you black necessarily but in order to be black, you must have melanin.
Thus, to redefine blackness is not deny diasporic blackness or to incite divide, but to exist in our bodies, in our blackness, our way.
Black Power ❤