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2511The Racist, Reeking and Odious 'O.D.R.'

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Feb 27, 2007

      Listed below is an essay on the history,
      effects and illogical application of the
      racist and reeking 'One-Drop Rule'
      (O.D.R.) -- as written by Professor F.
      James Davis of Illinois State University.



      To be considered "
      black" in the United States 'not
      even half'  of one's ancestry must be African 'Black'.

      But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less?

      The nation's answer to the question 'Who is "
      has long been that a "
      black" is any person
      with 'any-known' African 'Black' ancestry.

      This definition reflects the long experience with
      slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation.

      In the South it became known as the 'One-Drop
      Rule' (O.D.R.), meaning that a single-drop
      of 'Black' blood makes a person "

      It is also known as the "One 'Black 'Ancestor Rule,"
      some courts have called it the "Traceable Amount
      Rule," and anthropologists call it the "Hypo-Descent
      Rule," meaning that Racially-Mixed persons are
      assigned the status of 'the subordinate' group.

      This definition emerged from the American South to
      become the nation's definition, generally accepted …

      [Those labeled as "
      black"] had no other choice.

      As we shall see, this American cultural-definition
      of  "
      blacks" is taken for granted as readily by
      judges, affirmative action officers, and "
      protesters as it is by Ku Klux Klansmen.

      Let us not be confused by terminology…

      The term "
      black" is used [here] for persons
      with 'any' [amount of] 'Black' African lineage,
      --- not just for Un-Mixed members of
      populations from sub-Saharan Africa .

      The term "
      negro", which is used in certain
      historical contexts, means the same thing.

      Terms such as 'African-Black', 'Un-Mixed Negro',
      and 'All-Black' are used here to refer to 'Un-Mixed
      Blacks' -- descended from African populations.

      We must also pay attention to
      the terms '
      Mulatto' and 'Colored'.

      The term '
      Mulatto' was originally used to mean the
      offspring of a 'Pure African Negro' and a 'Pure White'.

      Although the root meaning of '
      in Spanish, is "Hybrid", '
      Mulatto' came to
      include the children of unions between
      'Whites' and so-called

      For example, Booker T. Washington and
      Frederick Douglass, with slave mothers and
      'White'  fathers, were referred to as  '
      Mulattoes' .

      To whatever extent [that] their mothers
      were part-'White', these men
      were 'more than' half-'White'.

      Douglass was evidently part
      `Amerindian' as well, and he looked it.

      Washington had reddish hair and gray eyes.

      At the time of the American Revolution, many of the
      founding fathers had some very light-[complexioned]
      slaves, including some who appeared to be 'White'.

      The term '
      Colored' seemed for a time to refer
      only to '
      Mulattoes' , especially lighter ones…

      With widespread Racial-Mixture, "negro"
      came to mean 'any' slave or descendant
      of a slave,
      no matter how much Mixed .

      Eventually in the United States, the terms '
      Colored',  "black", and "African-American"
      all came to mean people with 'any known'
      [amount of] 'Black' African ancestry.

      Mulattoes' are Racially-Mixed, to whatever degree,
      and the terms "
      black", "African-American ",
      and '
      Colored' [were also used  to describe
      those who were '
      Mulattoes' as well].

      As we shall see, these terms have quite
      different meanings in other countries.

      Whites in the United States need some
      help envisioning 'the American "
      black "
      experience' with [it's] Ancestral-Fractions.

      At the beginning of miscegenation between
      two populations presumed to be racially pure,
      quadroons appear in the second generation
      of continuing mixing with 'Whites',
      and octoroons in the third.

      A quadroon is one-fourth African 'Black' and thus
      easily classed as "
      black" in the United States , yet
      three of this person's four grandparents are 'White'.

      An octoroon has seven 'White' great-grandparents
      out of eight and usually looks 'White' or almost so.

      Most parents of [so-called] "
      black" American
      children in recent decades have themselves
      been 'Racially-Mixed',
      but often the fractions
      get complicated because the earlier details of
      the Mixing were obscured generations ago.

      Like so many 'White' Americans, "
      black" people
      are forced to speculate about some of the fractions
      -- one-eighth this, three-sixteenths that, and so on.


      Not only does the 'One-Drop Rule' A
      PPLY TO NO
      OTHER GROUP than American "
      but apparently the rule is unique in that it
      found only in the United States and NOT

      In fact, definitions of who is "
      black" vary quite
      sharply from country to country, and for this
      reason people in other countries often
      express consternation about our definition.

      James Baldwin relates a revealing incident
      that occurred in 1956 at the Conference of
      Negro-African Writers and Artists held in Paris .

      The head of the delegation of writers and artists
      from the United States was John Davis.

      The French chairperson introduced Davis and
      then asked him why he considered himself
      `Negro', since he certainly did not 'look like' one.

      Baldwin wrote, "He is a "negro", of course,
      from the remarkable `legal point of view
      which obtains in the United States ',
      but more importantly, as he tried
      to make clear to his interlocutor,
      he was a "negro" by choice and
      `by depth of involvement'
      -- by experience, in fact".

      The phenomenon known as "passing" as
      'White' is difficult to explain in other
      countries or to foreign students.

      Typical questions are:

      --- "Shouldn't Americans say that a person who is
      passing as 'White' is 'White', or nearly all 'White',
      and has previously been passing as 'Black'?" or
      --- "To be consistent, shouldn't you say that someone
      who is one-eighth 'White' is passing as 'Black'?" or
      --- "Why is there so much concern, since
      the so-called "
      blacks " who pass take
      so little 'Negroid' ancestry with them?"

      Those who ask such questions need to realize that
      "passing" is `much more a social-phenomenon'
      than a biological one, reflecting the nation's
      'unique definition' of what makes a person "

      The concept of "passing" rests on the
      'One-Drop Rule' and on folk beliefs about race and
      miscegenation, not on biological or historical fact.

      The "
      black" experience with "passing" as 'White'
      in the United States contrasts with the experience
      of other `ethnic' minorities that have features
      that are clearly non-Caucasoid.

      The concept of "passing" applies only to
      [so-called] "
      blacks" –consistent with the
      nation's `Unique Definition' of the group

      A person who is one-fourth or less American
      Indian or Korean or Filipino is not regarded
      as passing if he or she intermarries and joins
       fully the life of the dominant community, so
      the minority ancestry need not be hidden.

      It is often suggested that the key reason for this
      is that the 'physical differences' between these
      other groups and 'Whites' are 'less pronounced'
      than the physical differences between African
      'Blacks' and [European] 'Whites', and
      therefore are 'less threatening' to 'Whites'.

      However, keep in mind that the `One-Drop

      Rule' and anxiety about passing originated
      during slavery and later received powerful
      reinforcement under the Jim Crow system.

      For the physically visible groups other than
      blacks", miscegenation promotes assimilation,
      despite barriers of prejudice and discrimination
      during two or more generations of Racial-Mixing.

      As noted above, when ancestry in one
      of these racial minority groups does
      not exceed one-fourth, a person is not
      defined solely as a member of that group.

      Masses of 'White' European immigrants have
      climbed the class ladder not only through education
      but also with the help of close personal relationships
      in the dominant community, intermarriage, and
      ultimately full cultural and social assimilation.

      Young people tend to marry people they
      meet in the same informal social circles.

      For visibly non-Caucasoid minorities other than
      [the so-called] "
      blacks " in the United States, this
      entire route to full assimilation is slow but possible.

      For all persons of 'any known' [African]
      'Black' lineage, however, assimilation is
      blocked and is not promoted by miscegenation.

      Barriers to full opportunity and participation
      for "
      blacks" are still formidable, and a
      'fractionally' "
      black" person cannot escape these
      obstacles without "passing" as `White' and cutting
      off all ties to their "
      black" family and community.

      The pain of this separation, and condemnation
      by their "
      black" family and community, are
      major reasons why many or most of those
      who could "pass" as 'White' choose not to.

      Loss of security within the minority community, and
      fear and distrust of the 'White' world are also factors.

      It should now be apparent that the definition
      of a "
      black" person as one with 'any trace at all'
      of 'Black' African ancestry is inextricably
      woven into the history of the United States.

      It incorporates beliefs once used to justify

      slavery and later used to buttress the caste-
      like Jim Crow system of segregation.

      Developed in the South, the definition… spread
      and became the nation's social and legal definition.

      Because [so-called] "
      blacks" [in the United States]
      are defined according to the 'One-Drop Rule',
      they are a socially-constructed category in
      which there is "wide variation in racial traits"
      and therefore [they are] not a
      group in the scientific sense.

      However, because that category has a
      definite status position in the society it
      has become a self-conscious social
      group with an 'Ethnic' "identity".

      The `One-Drop Rule' has long been taken for
      granted throughout the United States
      … and
      the federal courts have taken "judicial notice"
      of it as being a matter of common knowledge.

      State courts have generally upheld the 'One-Drop
      Rule', but some have limited the definition to one
      thirty-second or one-sixteenth or one-eighth 'Black'
      ancestry, or made other limited exceptions for
      persons with both 'Amerindian' and 'Black' ancestry.

      Most Americans seem unaware that
      'this definition' of "
      blacks" is
      extremely unusual in other countries,
      perhaps even unique to the United States,
      and that

      We must first distinguish racial-traits
      from cultural-traits, since they are
      so often confused with each other.

      As defined in physical anthropology and biology,'
      races' are 'categories of human beings based on
      average differences in physical traits that are
      transmitted by the genes not by blood.

      'Culture' is a shared pattern of behavior and
      beliefs that are learned and transmitted
      through social communication.

      An 'Ethnic group' is a group with a sense of cultural
      identity, such as Czech or Jewish Americans,
      but it may also be a racially distinctive group.

      A group that is racially distinctive in society may
      be an 'Ethnic' group as well, but not necessarily.

      Although 'Racially-Mixed', most [so-called]
      blacks" in the United States are physically
      distinguishable from 'Whites'  -- but --
      they are also an 'Ethnic' group because of
      the distinctive culture they have developed
      within the general American framework.

      ((F. James Davis is a retired professor
       of sociology at Illinois State University.

      He is the author of numerous books, including
      'Who is Black? One Nation's Definition'
      (1991),  from which this excerpt was taken.


      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/jefferson/mixed/onedrop.html ))