Who is Black?: One Nation's Definition

F. James Davis, Author Pennsylvania State University Press $27.5 (204p) ISBN 978-0-271-00739-7
The ``one-drop rule'' (referring to ``one drop'' of black blood) defines as black ``any person with any known African ancestry.'' Both blacks and whites embrace this overly broad definition, which is peculiar to the U.S. Davis ( Society and the Law ) argues that this ``Big Lie . . . causes traumatic personal experiences, dilemmas of personal identity, misperceptions of the racial classification of well over a billion of the earth's people, conflicts in families and in the black community, and more.'' During slave days and the era of Jim Crow laws, whites used the rule to minimize the potential disruptions of miscegenation--usually illicit or coercive sex between white males and black females--by classifying the offspring as black. Blacks currently accept the one-drop rule, often disapproving of those with lighter skin who ``pass'' for white or marry across perceived color lines. Early chapters are thick with statistics, and chapter summaries mark the work as a textbook wannabe. However, later sections, such as the gripping narrative of Lena Horne's troubled experiences as a light-skinned black, are enlightening. This is an eye-opening appraisal of an issue often taken for granted in America. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-271-02172-0
Paperback - 216 pages - 978-0-271-00749-6
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