Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world

The ‘One Drop Rule’ Mentality

November 15th, 2010

Among many black people in the USA and in the UK, there are many who criticise mixed individuals for claiming to be mixed instead of black.  I regard that as an inferiority complex brought on by a slave mentality.  Many justify their criticisms with the fact that ‘society’ see mixed people as black and so mixed people must ‘accept’ that classification.  In other words ‘if massa say you is black, you is black’.  I don’t think so and just to make sure it is understood, mixed people are not white either.  I find that worrying that so many people still see themselves as inferior simply on the basis of their outward appearance.

One DropContrary to popular belief only the USA implemented the one drop rule.  Even South Africa during apartheid and Zimbabwe during UDI had other means of determining the race of an individual which sometimes led to members of the same family being classified differently.  The most famous South African test was the pencil test where a pencil inserted into the hair and would be used when there was question as to the racial classification of the individual.  Even the racist Boers understood that many of them would have some indigenous ancestry.  Prior to the adoption of stricter one drop rule in the USA there was a limit to how many generations back was of importance to an individual’s classification.  In Virginia, for example, more than one-sixteenth Amerindian blood was required to be classified non-white due to the fact that many whites claimed to descent from the Amerindian Pocahontas of the colonial era.

The one drop rule is a hypodescent system, that is, it categorises the offspring of any inter-racial mating as that of the inferior race.  This is opposed to a hyperdescent  system such as practised by the Arabs during Islam’s spread across North Africa and Southern Europe where mixed children, including those with slaves, were elevated to the father’s class.  Hyperdescent is the system of choice for most Latin Americans sometimes resulting in classification issues in the USA.  On the other hand, mainly non-Latin West Indian societies with its large UK immigrant descendant population seem to have adopted the hypodescent attitude from their northern neighbour.

Both these systems do require a belief that some races of people are superior and others are inferior.  If you are a supporter of this one drop mentality, you have deeper issues to worry about than what I decide to classify myself as.