FANSHEN: Recently I asked my friends when was the first time that they heard about the one-drop rule. And their answers were really incredible, so we’re sharing them here and we’d like to hear yours. So send us an email (onedropoflove(at)gmail, tweet us, anything, and let us know: when was the first time that YOU learned about the one-drop rule?
MARK: I self-identify as mixed, but I am politically Black. In our family we never talked about race or the one-drop rule – anything. And so basically I just intuited that there was a one-drop rule because I was defined as Black growing up as far as my experiences.
My dearest friend, growing up, would call me “contraband” because he learned about the phrase – he read something about slavery and that a slave that was seeking freedom, if they were caught they were considered ‘contraband’ and he thought that was funny. I had no knowledge, so he was calling me contraband and it hurt like hell and I had no ability to defend myself or to articulate a different argument.
So it really wasn’t until I graduated from high school, I was in the Marine Corps, I came across an interesting story in the New York Times about a woman who was suing the State of Louisiana because her birth certificate said that she was ‘Colored.’ She was raised White, she self-identified as White. And she fought her case all the way up to the Supreme Court and lost because according to state law, in 1970 if you were just any – any trace of Black, you were Colored to 1/32 Black, you were Colored. And she had 3/32s – they even went so far as to hire a genealogist. And so that fascinated me – it really resonated with me. I couldn’t articulate why, but I just found it a fascinating story.
Ten years later I was attending school at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and I learned about the one-drop rule. And that’s where I learned about slavery, I learned about Manifest Destiny, etc. etc. etc. And I learned about the one-drop rule and I learned how pernicious and ridiculous it is and how hard we work to create a caste system and what really saddened me was defining Black as a negative – that if you had any part Black in you, that was not a good thing. And that’s…that’s heartbreaking. Nobody should ever have that experience and it will end because of people like Fanshen, who are creating this space for us to talk about elements of racism such as the one-drop rule and I’m very appreciative and have much gratitude for allowing me to share my story of how I learned about the one-drop rule.
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