Race in America

The most interesting article in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine, in my opinion, was a fascinating window into race in America on the back page of the magazine called “Pick One” written by David Matthews.

My friend and co-author Roland Fryer continues to think hard about these issues also.


It's an interesting article but also wholly obsolete. Thirty years ago there might have been some uncertainty as to whether Matthews was black or white. Today, the "one drop rule" is stronger than ever and there'd be no doubt whatsoever that he would be black.


Today, the “one drop rule” is stronger than ever

Really? Must be a local thing. I find more and more that people don't bother making narrow distinctions.

I mean, have you been to Los Angeles? If you had to identify everyone you saw on the street by ethnicity you'd go crazy. The combinations and permutations are amazing, yet so commonplace as to not be worth noticing.

Well, unless we follow your 'one drop' rule. Then almost everyone would be black. Come to think of it, that a lot easier...


I thought this post was going to be about the NY marathon.


S & S - OK, I think I've proven that it's not just me -- HTML tagging is broken here. This is the second post in a row that has failed to accept a valid closing tag, and this time I carefully reviewed the text before submitting.

The above should read "that is a lot easier"

Can I renew my wish for a preview function?


Would the introduction of a mixed race coin into Schelling's lunch table model require a three dimensional checker board?

@prosa: I really hope that racial distinction for reasons other than celebrating one's heritage is becoming obsolete. Never heard of your rule, can't say that I agree either.


Hey Mack,

If Obama gets nominated and wins. Will he become the first Black president in the U.S.? or will he be the first half Black president? Then suppose down the line, someone who is not mixed, and has two black parents, gets elected. Does that President become the first black president of the U.S. or the first full black president?

I bring this up because maybe I just roll in a more racist circle, but the joke is that the Dems now have a woman (Clinton), an african american (Obama), and a latino (Richardson) trying to win the nomination and secure votes in the bible belt in order to become President.


Never heard of your rule, can't say that I agree either.

Never heard of the 1 drop rule? It's rather famous here in the progressive south. The following passage sums it up nicely.

"THE United States is the only country in the world in which a white woman can give birth to a black baby but a black woman cannot give birth to a white baby"


I live in Nashville, TN and I had never heard of the 'One Drop Rule' until the first comment on this post.


Dr. Beverly Tatum has written a book about this very topic titled "Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria." She also discusses the "One Drop Rule" and how the U.S. Gov. it is used to legally classified people (e.g. passports, birth certificates, etc). I believe she states that the Supreme Court wouldn't touch a lower courts ruling that upheld the one drop rule.


The "one drop rule" says that a person with any known (or even, sometimes, suspected) black ancestry is considered black, even if the amount is trivial and he or she appears fully Caucasian. Given the fact that race is a self-identified classification in America, the rule is an informal one rather than enshrined in law, but it is widely followed nonetheless.

For a while it looked as if the concept of "multiracial" people was becoming more accepted. The 2000 Census added a multiracial category, albeit after quite a struggle, and some people were taking pride in their mixed heritages. More recently, however, there have been a number of prominent people who identify as completely black despite mixed backgrounds, for example Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, and Halle Berry, so it appears that "multiracial" is no longer a viable category.


I think the first time I heard of 'one drop rule' was during an interview with Mariah Carey. I was surprised to know that technically she was black due to her Cuban father.

I have an "multiracial" baby and we decided to stick with "Others", if "multiracial" is not an option when we fill in any form for him.


My son is multi-racial. He'll be "black" when he applies for financial aid, "multi" for surveys, and "other" when it's advantageous. I think he's lucky to have those options.


I am bi-racial. If I'm not given an option to say so, then I just leave it blank. That's easier (and more honest) than staring at some stupid form trying to pick one or the other.


I'm a foreigner. When I become a resident, I become 'raced'. What are the economic implications?



my lineage is "black" Irish.....



In a hundred years, our great, great, grandkids will laugh at pre-occupation at race. Well...maybe a 150 years.


One thing I don't understand is why my kids who are 1/16th American Indian can't use the 1 drop rule-now that would really help with tuitions someday...


Under the one-drop rule, I could classify myself as Hispanic, since being Chinese-Filipino, I have some Spanish blood way way up there in my genealogy. Yay for affirmative action! :D

In all seriousness, I find the one-drop rule ridiculous - and the same goes for this preoccupation with race. I've always thought of myself as Chinese because I'm about two-thirds and have a Chinese name, but race doesn't matter to me. You can insult the Chinese race to my face, and it wouldn't matter to me.


zoemccabe and johnleemk -
The one drop rule applies only with respect to black ancestry. Having a small amount of Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian ancestry does not confer that racial status on oneself.


It would make David Duke happy to read this thread.