Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One-drop? Gotta stop

According to the one-drop rule, these fellows in the "Star Trek" episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” are ALL black. Does that make sense to you?

Do you know about the “one-drop rule” – the idea that if a person has even one iota of African ancestry, he or she is considered black – regardless of physical appearance?

Silly, isn’t it? (And why does it not apply when it comes to Hispanic, Asian, or Native American ancestry?) This bad idea started shortly after the end of the Civil War, when the South, now faced with millions of freed slaves, became hysterical with fear that blacks and whites would mate and produce children “tainted” with black blood. Of course, the one-drop rule was law for decades to come.

Today – in a bizarre irony – blacks are far more likely than whites to insist on enforcing the one-drop rule, because if people who are half-black and half-something else were to call themselves biracial (or multiracial, as the case may be), the numbers in the “black” population would go down…which is not a good reason to hang on to this silly rule.

I could say more, but I will let one of my favorite wisdom brokers, Cecil Adams, give you the last word. Cecil is the columnist/researcher behind The Straight Dope, which has entertained and educated Chicago Reader fans (and many others in syndication and the Web) since 1973. Not too long ago, a reader asked Cecil whether or not Ludwig van Beethoven had African ancestry. Here is Cecil’s reply:

Beethoven black? Sure, why not? If we accept the "one-drop rule" that long prevailed in the U.S., namely that any black African ancestry whatsoever makes you black, and if we further buy the argument sometimes heard that everyone on earth is at least 50th cousin to everyone else – that is, has a common ancestor no more than 50 generations back – then everybody's black, or more accurately, as Santana once put it, everybody's everything.

That is the only logical conclusion to the one-drop rule – a conclusion which will please both white supremacists and black-pride activists alike. /sarcasm

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