Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Drop Rule

What is the "One Drop Rule"?, you ask. Well, it's the premise that most of the world's population holds that defines racial identities like Barack Obama's as being 100% black. If I remember correctly, the presidential hopeful had a white mother. So, why is he called only black if he's half Caucasian? Why deny him his own parent and birthright?

It all harkens back to the "One Drop Rule" of slavery and, obviously, post-slavery. If a white slave master raped a black female slave and she ended up giving birth to his baby, the way that slave master protected his assets (including his slaves who were considered property) was to categorize the bastard child as black based on the "One Drop" of Negro blood flowing in his veins. That's all it took--just "One Drop", and the child was regulated to the lowest end of the American caste system. For one, how would it look to the other slaves if someone nearer their own skin tone had the possibility of inheriting the plantation? Further, how would it look to other white slave owners if a "darky" was elevated to the same social stratum as them?

The "One Drop Rule" ensured that the half-white child would never be considered anything but black and would, therefore, remain untitled to a white man's treasures. Being denied his white heritage meant that the child would have no right to be free ever and (probably the most frightening to the slave master) no possibility of freeing his black relatives if he ever became in charge of the plantation.

So, the "One Drop Rule" was a useful tool for white slave masters and others to keep blacks in their places. But didn't the U.S. abolish slavery a long time ago? So, why are biracial black/white people referred to as being only black when they are so clearly half white? Why is Halle Berry called the "first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar"? Quite frankly, if I was her, I'd have made an impassioned Oscar speech about the Academy forcing me to deny my own mother.

Enough of my jaw-jacking. Or, typing. Here are some comments from my lovely friend Daphne Delores:

"Yayoi, thank you for defining 'hapa'. My multi-racial identity goes back at least a few generations, where there was race mixing on at least three branches of the family tree. One great-grandmother, for instance, was the child of a former slave as a result of rape by her former master. Another great-grandmother (Welsh woman) married a black man in New England at the turn of the last century, and our family name is still enshrined on a former plantation in Virginia.

My generation's hapa sisters and brothers, and those of our children, have in many cases been able to explore and accept both aspects of their racial identity in ways that were surely not always possible in such situations in my great-grandparents' time. They were, in most cases, manipulated by the "One Drop Rule" into knowing and keeping "their place". A few may have "passed" for the status and opportunities this afforded them, but they were also looked down upon by family members, friends and others who, even to this day, considered this to be a betrayal of their race. This was my understanding of bi- or multi-racial identity until very recently.

Certainly, most "black" people in this country were/are at least bi-racial if not multi-racial, but in the past to focus on the "Indian" or "Caucasian" aspects of our ancestry was considered borderline delusional as we were, and in many cases still are, perceived as simply "black" (or "African American", if you prefer) no matter how pale our complexions.

Yayoi, you brought to my attention the complexities of loving, respecting and honoring parents who happen to come from different races and/or perhaps religious backgrounds as well, as initiated by other's opinions. Perhaps some of these same kinds of issues could affect the offspring of socio-economically diverse parentage, parents with politically divergent views, etc. In any case, other people's opinions of one's identity, or how you choose to express it, should be just that--not fodder for ongoing frustration with the public's general lack of understanding.

There is a pervasive force in this world that manipulates markets, governments, currencies, etc., and the motto of this diabolic cabal is, as it was a hundred years and more ago, "divide and conquer".

We must be in touch with that which connects us all in a spiritual sense to find the inner strength, the flexibility and understanding to confront this pervasive "evil" if we are to even maintain a trace of our "inalienable rights" and to enjoy any possibility of peace or freedom whatsoever. Dr. Wayne Dyer among others uses the phrase, "What other people think of me is none of my concern." Let not the ignorance (lack of knowledge) on the part of other people become burdens in our lives; there is too much important work to be done.

Peace and many blessings, always.
Bodhi Daphne"

That's Daphne, above, sitting in front of the ArcLight at dusk during my coverage of LAFF.

Peace out, ya'll!

Your Hip Hapa,

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