U.S. Senator Barack Obama and the One-Drop Rule." Mitchell questions why then-Senator Obama is referred to as black when his mother was white and he was raised by white grandparents. She suggests that the reason that many people assume Obama is black and refer to him as such is because of the one drop rule, loosely defined as the belief that any person with any known African ancestry is considered to be black.
Plessy v. Ferguson case in which a black, "octoroon", Homer Plessy, was arrested for refusing to leave a white's only East Louisiana railroad car. The concept of the one drop rule preceeded the legal stamp of approval in Plessy (overruled by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case), so we're talking about a concept that has been a part of U.S. culture for well over 100 years. Mitchell's question is like asking why we celebrate Halloween when we know there are no such things as ghosts and goblins: we celebrate Halloween because it's engrained in American culture. In the case of Halloween, we think of it as a tradition. The one drop rule is more of a custom or a norm.
Evident in the comments attached to Mitchell's piece, was an idea that black people or the media or liberals or affirmative action are somehow responsible for the one drop rule and the idea that a drop of black blood makes you black. Or more succinctly: it's black people's fault that we're racist towards black people. It should be clear from a basic review of history that these notions are silly. Still, I would think that these people would be able to recognize that biracial individuals like Obama are not making a breezy or under-handed decision in identifying with whatever racial group. History plays a large role in these decisions, but society plays an even larger role. Does anyone really think society in the United States saw a young Barack Obama walking around and thought, "gee that's a biracial child raised by white people, he doesn't look black at all. I'll just identify him as biracial." Obama, born in 1961? The same people complaining about the imaginary advantage of claiming yourself black were in all likelihood the people that made an infant Obama painfully aware that he was indeed black in the first place.
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