In April 2021, we learned of yet another tragic incident involving a White police officer and a Black man. However, this one was markedly different from all the rest. The police officer appeared traumatized and expressed remorse after she shot and killed the man she allegedly intended to tase. She claimed that, in the heat of the moment, she accidentally drew her gun instead of her taser.
For months, most of the debates surrounding the case involved whether the incident was truly an accident. However, something else entirely caught my attention a few weeks ago when a New York Times article notification popped up on my phone. It involved the testimony of Daunte Wright’s mother, who I immediately noticed was White.
Why, then, was her son described as a Black man? Meanwhile, her race was graciously skirted over. Am I implying that Daunte is not Black or is less Black because his mother is White? No, I’m amused by how willingly White Americans have allowed the one-drop rule to erase them from the ancestry of their children and grandchildren.
What Is the One-Drop Rule?
Harvard delicately describes the one-drop rule as a tendency to assign minority status to people of Mixed race or Mixed heritage. In the case of Daunte Wright and millions of other Mixed-race children in America—including Barack Obama—despite having a White and Black parent, only the Black heritage is recognized.
One might argue that White Americans invented this way of thinking. In fact, it has been a part of the White American identity vs everyone else since the dawn of European civilization in America. Children born of unions between Indigenous People and White Europeans, for example, were never considered White and often suffered ostracization.
Then, along came slavery. Despite the dehumanizing of Black people—or perhaps, especially because of it—the Mixed-race population grew. Southern planters worried that these individuals would have the opportunity to climb in status and compete fairly with themselves and their children, so they created the one-drop rule.
At its core, the one-drop rule asserts that it takes just one drop of Black blood to mar the pristine Whiteness that early settlers and Southern planters wanted to preserve. The only good comparison to this was Nazi Germany—centuries later.
In Jamaica, this doesn’t exist. We are free to identify as whatever we look like and whatever our ancestral roots are.
How Has This Backfired?
What started as a way to preserve Whiteness has now effectively begun to erase it. In fact, most social scientists report that America’s White population is declining at a much faster rate than experts at first predicted it would. The results of the 2020 census confirmed a decline in the White American population for the first time. This was swiftly followed by predictions that America will be a “minority white” country by 2045 from several reputable sources.
Many factors have contributed to this racial shift. For starters, interracial relationships and families are now more common than ever. To add to this, America’s policies overseas have contributed to the historic and continued destabilization of foreign countries around the world. Coupled with its PR campaign as the biggest, best, and baddest, it becomes the simultaneous bully and beacon of hope for people from poorer countries.
These countries are predominantly populated by People of Colour, who are themselves the result of European exploitation, American interference—or both. As these people flee to America and grow their families, the population experiences a shift in demographics.
But, considering that the census requires self-identification, it begs the question of whether the one-drop rule has worked better than White Americans originally hoped it would.
How many children are there from Mixed-race households who chose to tick only the boxes for Black, Indigenous or Asian people because American culture and social norms have rarely—if ever—treated them as anything else?