The one drop rule

These days it seems like things are going back to the way they were in the good old days, only with a few tweaks. You’ve got proud racists, anti-abortion “feminists”, and now it looks like we’re getting a 21st century reboot of the “one drop rule”. This time, however, it’s one drop of white blood that apparently gets you everywhere you want to be.

As you may have read on Feministe, Washington Post reporter Kathleen Parker called Obama the “first female president” and some drama ensued. I’m not going to get into that, read the link because Nisha on Feministe does a good job of breaking it down. So in attempting to apologize for that assclownery, she steps in it again, several times, but particularly this point:

You’ll have to take me at my word when I say that I don’t view Obama exclusively as a black man — no matter what he said on his census form. Not only is he half-white, but also he has managed to transcend skin color, at least from where I sit.

Oh! Then she adds this tidbit, which is an extreme version of the “My best friend is black” trope:

As a sidebar, there’s another reason I don’t see him as only black. He is my cousin. I had intended to save this nugget for a future column, but now seems as good a time as any to brag.

I learned of this surprising family link when a cousin conducting genealogical research contacted me recently: “And by the way, did you know you’re kin to Barack?”

Apparently, we are descended of brothers whose parents — Johann Pieter Straub and Anna Maria Barbara Hoffman — emigrated from Germany to the colonies about 1733. According to the family grid, Obama and I seem to be eighth cousins once removed.

Why is it that whenever progressive white folks want to prove that Obama transcends race, or racist white people want to take him down a notch, they bust out with the “well, he is half-white” business. For the racists, it’s as if the white blood in him is responsible for his success. A lot of black people have some white blood in them somewhere along the line. Are all their successes also due to the white blood? For the progressive whites, it’s like him being half white makes him some kind of shaman, able to communicate with the “black world” and make it safe for them to understand, therefore “transcending” race. Do the many other black people with white blood in them also possess this mystical ability?

Though Obama identifies as a black man, these jokers still feel the need to point out that he’s half white. In fact, for many people his racial identity changes depending on the point they’re making or what they’re complaining about. If Obama transcends race so well, WHY ARE WE ALWAYS HAVING THIS CONVERSATION? It’s just silly.

Race is not something you can transcend, really. It’s a social construct and a daily reality. So can we please just stop flapping our jaws about what Obama is or isn’t and lose the magical Negro talk? Because this half white black woman is just about done with all this back-in-the-day business.

22 Responses to The one drop rule

  1. DeeLeigh July 7, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    That ridiculous. In my experience, Black Americans are just as ethnically mixed as white Americans. Almost everyone whose ancestors have been in the US for more than a generation or two has a complicated family tree. Of course, most black people are part white, some white people are part black, and almost everyone is part native. If someone says they're black, they're black. I mean, WTF?

    • Tasha Fierce July 7, 2010 at 10:48 am #

      Yeah, there's a lot of black people who have two black parents and look white, and are constantly getting shit for it. The race system is so broken. But it's just unrealistic to think we're going to dismantle it any time soon.

      • DeeLeigh July 8, 2010 at 5:19 am #

        I find it really disappointing when educated people don't grasp that the American concept of race is highly subjective. It's even worse when someone seems to think that calling a black person's race into question is some kind of compliment. I think that her intent was to paint Obama as a representative of all Americans, since his mother is white; to say that he's not really an outsider. But why can't he represent us all as a black man?

        And, reading the whole thing, wow! This woman is really hung up on race and gender. The cousin thing is the worst, though. Weird weird weird.

        • Tasha Fierce July 8, 2010 at 10:37 am #

          I just think her original point, calling Obama's rhetoric "feminine", is sexist, and then her apology was borderline racist. She needs to go sit in the corner and think about what she said.

  2. wriggles July 7, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    It's also true of Africans, in Africa too. African's full stop are far more mixed than people assume.

    And what's with the I found out he's my cousin so I can't see him as black? I almost have to congratulate her because that's a new one on me.

    • Tasha Fierce July 7, 2010 at 10:49 am #

      I loved the "he's my cousin" bit. She just had to slip that in there. It's almost like a joke.

  3. andrea July 7, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    Very tiresome indeed.

    • Tasha Fierce July 7, 2010 at 10:50 am #

      I get exhausted just thinking about it!

  4. maggie July 7, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    This whole Parker thing is just cringingly god-awful.

    • Tasha Fierce July 7, 2010 at 10:50 am #

      Isn't it? And her "apology" was so half-assed she shouldn't have even bothered.

  5. sRa July 7, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    It's so FRACKING -just wrong -I can't even articulate my offense -I'm just reduced to growling.

    Not to mention, ALL white people have black ancestors. How do people that are so ignorant get into positions of relative power/influence? grrrrrrrr.

    • Tasha Fierce July 9, 2010 at 12:09 am #

      With all the blatant racism and threatened gun violence going on, and the lack of serious research on ideas fed to people by Fox News I can understand why people get into positions of power despite their ignorance. They just love talking about race from a completely removed perspective.

  6. Twistie July 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    I think I’m going to go the Stephen Colbert angle on Obama’s race: he says he’s black, and I believe him.

    Even if I one day discover that he and I are eight cousins once – nay, even thrice! – removed, I will continue to believe him. And considering that I have ancestors who once hailed from Germany, it’s possible there’s a connection.

    My rule is that I never presume to decide how others choose to present their own racial identities. They get to do that all on their own.

    • Tasha Fierce July 8, 2010 at 10:09 am #

      To me even if he didn't say he was black, obviously the Teabaggers treat him like he is.

  7. Jerome July 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    What a bunch of foolishness from the Post (and they're MY city's paper, how embarrassing). If he self-identifies as black, he's black. What is so difficult to understand about this? I made the mistake of reading the original article that you referenced and am now ready to find the nearest wall to bang my head against.

    • Tasha Fierce July 9, 2010 at 12:07 am #

      Oh I was facepalming repeatedly as I read that. I almost messed up my makeup.

  8. PlusSizedWomanist July 10, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    God, this woman seriously needs to get a clue and is in desperate need of reading "Unpacking the Knapsack," Tim Wise, Stuff White People Do, and Robert Jensen. PRONTO!

    • Tasha Fierce July 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

      Ah, if only she knew she needed to educate herself.

  9. Bronxgirl1 July 12, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    I am sorry but this woman is completely talking out of her ass.I won't even try to make excuses for her. I think some white people look for reasons to validate why a person of color is acceptable to them. From personal experience, I have met and worked with some white people who were downright rude to me but once they found out I am African their whole demeanor changed. As if I am suddenly more acceptable because I am not a black American. Or if they find out that I am not from the ghetto and that I can speak without shifting to ebonics then suddenly I am more acceptable and approachable.

    I guess some people rely on stereotypes so much that they are unable to open their minds and (in the words of Dr. King)judge people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

  10. Léna July 15, 2010 at 5:36 am #

    It's funny how it's always people of colors that "trasncend skin color". If Obama is so "feminine", why isn't he "transcending gender" ?


  1. Sunday link love « Trans/plant/portation - July 11, 2010

    […] Fierce on her blog at Red Vinyl Shoes, looks at how President Obama is problematically deconstructed as a “half-white” […]

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