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+  Africa Speaks Reasoning Forum
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| | |-+  Who defines blackness?
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Author Topic: Who defines blackness?  (Read 8878 times)
Posts: 490

« on: November 11, 2013, 02:00:04 PM »

The rule goes, one drop of black blood makes you black. But one drop of white blood doesn´t make you white. Who determined this and why is it still so? What is blackness and what is whiteness? (I am limiting this to black and white because of where I find myself, not only physically.)

Blackness..who defines it?

by blackgirlinmaine

In my daily cruising of blogs, I was struck by a blog I read about Soledad O’Brien and the issue of Blackness. Soledad is hosting a two part program on CNN that I have not yet seen on being Black in America and guess some folks questioned whether Soledad was really Black enough to be a part of such a discussion. For starters I will admit that I didn’t even know she was Black, over the years I thought she looked like she might be Black but with that name honestly, I never gave it a second thought.

However in the larger picture, reading about her Blackness or lack thereof brought me back to my own childhood and how often I endured cutting remarks from family members on my supposed lack of Blackness. As I have talked about before, I attended predominantly white schools even when we lived in Black areas, I was the kid in high school who had to get up at 5:30 am to trek across Chicago to get to school by 8 am. In my early years, we did though live in a predominantly white area.

For starters, as a kid, I was the kid who couldn’t jump rope, not just any rope, double-dutch, that definitely earned me lots of laughs as a kid.. later on I was put down because I talked white, I read books, and the worse offense in the eyes of relatives, I listened to white music. Back in fourth grade, I bought my first albums, Duran Duran and The Police and yes these were indeed albums. LOL

Later on growing up I grew to embrace all kinds of music, yet despite my love of music, I have been told I cannot dance. How many family gatherings did I attempt to let loose only to hear the family “Look at S, she dance like a white girl”.. laughs all around.

It wasn’t until in the past 10 years I realized I wasn’t the only Black kid who grew up being cracked on because of my supposed lack of Blackness as a kid, yet even when we become adults if you were a member of the non-black enough crew growing up, you still get it from adults. Its never ending, but the reality is what the hell is Blackness?

Honestly I beleive much of what we in America call Blackness makes no sense, to say that a group that  has millions and millions of members must all do the same thing is group-think on a crazy level. What I consider the Black experience in America is a rich diverse array of experience. It shapes us individually and creates Black folks as diverse as John McWhorter, Jesse Jackson, and many others. Even factoring for socio-economics, we are as diverse as white folks. No one ever expects white folks to be all the same.

Yet for many of us Black folks if we see someone engaging in behavior that we associate with White America we are quick to slap a label on that individual and heaven forbid we might even call said not real Black person an Oreo. Yep, been there, done that too. Thankfully I have reached the age where it no longer irritates me that family members think I am an Oreo, I suspect my move to Maine solidified in their minds that I am a true Oreo.. oddly enough these same folks like many who are quick to judge who is really Black, no nothing about Black history.

Blackness as I define it is a state of mind, its the ability for me to take pride in my roots, its when I reached that place where I can proudly share about my humble family roots, the grandfather who was a sharecropper. Its that place where as a Black woman I can look upon my own natural attributes and be at peace with how I was created, I see joy in my nappy hair, my full lips and hips and cocoa complexion. Its the place where I want to embrace all members of the diaspora, where I understand that the Dominican brothas and sistas are the same as me.. we all hail from the same place, we just ended up at different places.

No, Blackness can not simply be reduced to a few points, Blackness is not necessarily growing up in the hood, Blackness allows for the richness that gives us the Soledad’s who choose to embrace her heritage because she understands that Blackness is more than skin color. I like to say its in our blood, we feel its strength, its the strength that allowed a people who had been taken away from their homes to create in this new and strange land that was forced upon us. I sometimes think that if the ancestors could see this silliness that many of us engage in that they would cry out in shame at what we have become.

Instead of deciding who is Black, let us make sure we understand who we are first and foremost.

Source: http://blackgirlinmaine.com/current-events/blacknesswho-defines-it/
Iniko Ujaama
Posts: 528

« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 01:53:48 AM »

Here is another article which I think tackles another dimension of the issue. I think both writers miss or neglect an important point regarding the testing processes or ways of assessing persons for solidarity among ones that look like them and why it might be important to do so. I think part of what contributes to this response is that they both reduce the issue narrowly to their personal level of acceptance among other blacks without adequately examining how White supremacy infects and operates among Blacks. Even if one can define blackness based on ancestry I still think there will be a place for persons to accept, not accept, trust and distrust based on what they understand of themselves as Black people(beyond just their physical attributes). In understanding their Blackness people are rightly not contented with simply the matter of phenotype but those aspects which express our humanity i.e. language, culture, dress etc. Many Africans get narrow or false ideas about what is African culture and have inadequate knowledge of history to know the African origins of many things they call White. However I do not think they should be compelled to randomly trust or accept people simply because they are black. I think too often this comes from a place of wanting the best of both worlds i.e to benefit from or identify in some way with whiteness and have unquestioned acceptance by blacks.


“Who is Black?”By: Rosa Clemente

Yesterday, an interesting thing happened to me. I was told I am not Black.

The kicker for me was when my friend stated that the island of Puerto Rico was not a part of the African Diaspora. I wanted to go back to the old school playground days and yell: “You said what about my momma?!” But after speaking to several friends, I found out that many Black Americans and Latinos agree with him. The miseducation of the Negro is still in effect!

I am so tired of having to prove to others that I am Black, that my peoples are from the Motherland, that Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic, are part of the African Diaspora. Did we forget that the slave ships dropped off our people all over the world, hence the word Diaspora?

The Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to Puerto Rico in the early 1500s. Some of the first slave rebellions took place on the island of Puerto Rico. Until 1846, Africanos on the island had to carry a libreta to move around the island, like the passbook system in apartheid South Africa. In Puerto Rico, you will find large communities of descendants of the Yoruba, Bambara, Wolof and Mandingo people. Puerto Rican culture is inherently African culture.

There are hundreds of books that will inform you, but I do not need to read book after book to legitimize this thesis. All I need to do is go to Puerto Rico and look all around me. Damn, all I really have to do is look in the mirror every day.

I am often asked what I am—usually by Blacks who are lighter than me and by Latinos/as who are darker than me. To answer the $100,000, 000 question, I am a Black Boricua, Black Rican, Puertorriqueña! Almost always I am questioned about why I choose to call myself Black over Latina, Spanish, Hispanic. Let me break it down.

I am not Spanish. Spanish is just another language I speak. I am not a Hispanic. My ancestors are not descendants of Spain, but descendants of Africa. I define my existence by race and land. (Borinken is the indigenous name of the island of Puerto Rico.)

Being Latino is not a cultural identity but rather a political one. Being Puerto Rican is not a racial identity, but rather a cultural and national one. Being Black is my racial identity. Why do I have to consistently explain this to those who are so-called conscious? Is it because they have a problem with their identity? Why is it so bad to assert who I am, for me to big-up my Africanness?

My Blackness is one of the greatest powers I have. We live in a society that devalues Blackness all the time. I will not be devalued as a human being, as a child of the Supreme Creator.

Although many of us in activist circles are enlightened, many of us have baggage that we must deal with. So many times I am asked why many Boricuas refuse to affirm their Blackness. I attribute this denial to the ever-rampant anti-Black sentiment in America and throughout the world, but I will not use this as an excuse. Often Puerto Ricans who assert our Blackness are not only outcast by Latinos who identify more with their Spanish Conqueror than their African ancestors, but we are also shunned by Black Americans who do not see us as Black.

Nelly Fuller, a great Black sociologist, stated: “Until one understands the system of White supremacy, anything and everything else will confuse you.” Divide and conquer still applies.

Listen people: Being Black is not just skin color, nor is it synonymous with Black Americans. To assert who I am is the most liberating and revolutionary thing I can ever do. Being a Black Puerto Rican encompasses me racially, ethically and most importantly, gives me a homeland to refer to.

So I have come to this conclusion: I am whatever I say I am! (Thank you, Rakim.)

*First posted in The Final Call on July 10, 2011


Rosa Alicia Clemente is a Bronx born Puerto Rican woman. She is a community organizer, journalist, Hip Hop activist and the 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate with the GREEN PARTY. She is currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMASS-Amherst and is writing her first book entitled When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name. For more information about Rosa and her work, visit http://www.rosaclemente.org/
Kurious Rose
Posts: 14

« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2013, 01:55:47 AM »


The one drop blood 'rule' was instituted in the 1700s in the United States to class European peoples both rich and poor separate and apart from the African population. Because there were many poor whites who often intermingled with enslaved Africans both sexually and otherwise due to similar conditions of poverty, the landed gentry sought to reestablish the poor whites as a buffer class between them and enslaved Africans to ensure, among other things, that land and titles remained in Euro-American hands and that Africans and poor whites did not come together to rise in rebellion. The designation 'white' in this regard, was meant to accrue privilege to all Europeans so that the pyramidal socio-economic structure remained intact to benefit mostly affluent whites. Concomitantly, race-mixing was discouraged and persons with African ancestry were stripped of rights and certain privileges and were all classed as black.

Understanding the origin of such ‘rules’ is important because to be able to properly dismiss bogus, racist labels. It is also significant to note that lumping all with African ancestry as black often works in favor of light-skinned, mixed race ones and not black Africans for the mere fact that light-skin and attributes closer to white are privileged over blackness. This does not mean that people still can’t label themselves as they feel but becoming better informed can furnish one with the tools to challenge them.

Just because one has African ancestry does not make him Black and because someone has white ancestry does not make him white. Popular actor Johnny Depp for example discovered in not too recent times that he has a black ancestor, so is he now black? No. Does he have black heritage and ancestry? Yes. But he is white because his phenotypical make-up - his straight hair, pale skin, straight nose etc. is European. If, perhaps he had visible African ancestry, then he could be classed as mixed race, but this is not the case.

In the case of Soledad O’Brien, she looks like a light-skinned, mixed race person to me. I would not call her black.  If people saw her as white, I have no objections to that because she does look more white than black. Of course, O’Brien is free to recognize and associate with her blackness or her whiteness as she chooses. But that still does not make her black.

The author of the “Blackness…who defines it?” piece is also convoluting the issue of racial classification with that of racial stereotyping. One’s musical preference, ‘talking’, ‘acting’ and dancing white does not make one less black as blackness, when dealing with races, is about phenotype (Black people). Anyone of any race can associate with black people, like their music, aspects of their culture, support black resistance endeavors, and may even develop black awareness but that does not make them black. . . perhaps African-oriented or black-oriented . . . but not black.

Africans in the West, due to experiences of slavery and colonialism do have a shared history but other races can also attest to similar experiences of abuse and discrimination at the hands of Europeans including other Europeans as well. This cannot mean that everyone can claim black. . . nor can it mean that they experience the system in the same way. Also, some may choose to live in a bubble and pretend that they can live life in the same way that privileged whites do until they encounter a situation that puts them in their place, so to speak. But that does not make them white either.

Thus, simply put, one's blackness when dealing with race, is determined by one's genetic make-up and physical appearance.

P.S. What do you mean by: “I am limiting this to black and white because of where I find myself, not only physically”?
Posts: 490

« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2013, 05:58:24 PM »

Kurious Rose

By "I am limiting this to black and white because of where I find myself” I meant that I am referring to the African and European genetic make-up because I am based in two European countries. Consequently, most bi or multiracial black people have European/white heritage. By "not only physically", I wanted to point to the fact that the online communities I frequent tend to limit mixed/biracial heritage to white and black heritage.

Posts: 490

« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2016, 07:03:52 PM »

The 'One Drop Rule' is Destructive to African Americans
The 'One Drop Rule' is Destructive to African Americans
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