“One-Drop” Of Black Blood Was A Death Sentence
America is the only country on earth that has ever defined Black people by the amount of “Black blood” they possess. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, ideas of racial purity swirled around the southern states as Jim Crow laws segregated Black and white people and gave birth to the infamous “one-drop rule.”
The one-drop rule stated that any person who had ANY African ancestry, no matter how distant the relative, was Black. This vile and blatantly disrespectful rule made its way into laws in dozens of states to make it clear that whites did not approve of intermarriage or sexual relations with African-Americans.
Unlike any other minority group in America, Black people were punished for mixing with whites. For example, Arkansas declared in 1910 that the mere existence of a biracial child in a home was a parental crime and warranted a felony charge.
Additionally, states had a legal basis for discrimination that helped them deny Black people many opportunities afforded to whites. The one-drop rule even affected Black people who could “pass” as white by giving a more scientific basis for discrimination instead of affording privilege based solely on looks.
The one-drop rules fall in line with America’s history of racism and prejudice. It was white southerners’ last-ditch effort to protect their fleeting sense of white supremacy as African-Americans earned their civil rights.
The one-drop rule is peculiar and demonstrates how African-Americans have long been seen as second-class citizens. According to a Harvard study, the one-drop rule still exists today and has infiltrated Americans’ perception of Black people including popular folks like Barack Obama and Halle Berry.
To learn more about the one-drop rule, James Davis’s Who Is Black: One Nation’s Definition is a great book that dives deeper into this fascinating history.
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