29 February 2020

The One-Drop Rule: Mulatto History Month

(We are offline due to a much-needed research period at the moment, so we've decided to re-publish some earlier pieces you might have missed the first time. We plan to be back posting new material very soon--stay tuned!)

There's been a hubbub across the pond recently, as the British Royal Family's favored son and his Yankee wife have given up their titles and fled to Canada. Some are placing the blame squarely on the Brits's supposed 'racism.' But in the picture above just who, you may ask, is not white?

Inviting a Han Chinese to gaze upon the above image and to tell us which two are the same 'color,' and which one is a different 'color,' would be an amusing exercise.

The one-drop rule, once used as a caste marker to place people of color at a lower rank, has today taken on the opposite role: It has now become a badge to allow membership in a privileged victimzation class.

The one-drop rule and its long, intriguing past come to the fore every February, when Americans celebrate 'Black History Month.' We here revisit our piece examining its complex role in the pantheon of Afro-American notables and heroes. We hope you will find it of interest.

[Re-post, original post here.]

Mulatto historian Carter G. Woodson, an attendee at Chicago's 1915 Exposition of Negro Progress (celebrating 50 years of Emancipation), was so inspired by the crowds' enthusiasm that he went on to promote the very first 'Negro History Week' in February 1926.  A roaring success, this yearly event was expanded to an entire month in 1976, when President Gerald Ford urged all Americans to 'seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.'

But what is a Black American?

Let us take a moment to gaze upon the visages of those individuals held up as most honorable and praiseworthy during this month.  First, 'Negro History Week's' creator, Mr. Carter G. Woodson himself:


Our first 'black' president needs little introduction, but what of our first 'black' Secretary of State?:

Our first 'black' female Secretary of State:

First 'black' Attorney General:

First 'black' Cabinet Member (HUD):

First 'black' State's Attorney General:

First 'black' elected Congressman:

First 'black' governor:

First 'black' elected governor:

First 'black' mayor:

First 'black' elected mayor:


First 'Black' to command a U.S. ship:

First 'Black' to graduate from West Point:

First 'black' colonel:

First 'black' general:

First 'black' four-star admiral:

First 'Black' to be awarded a Medal of Honor:

First 'black' Secret Service agent:

First 'black' female pilot:


Blood bank researcher and first 'black' American Surgery Board member:

First 'black' cardiologist

First 'black' physician to author a medical textbook:

First 'black' M.D.:


First 'black' man to earn a B.A.:

First 'black' woman to earn a B.A.:

First 'black' man to earn a Ph.D.:

First 'black' woman to earn a Ph.D.:

First 'Black' to graduate Harvard:

First 'black' female college professor:

First 'black' Ivy League president:


First 'black' licensed lawyer:

First 'black' federal judge:

First 'black' circuit court chief justice:

First 'black' Supreme Court Justice:

First 'black' female State Supreme Court justice:

First 'black' female federal judge:

First 'black' female judge:


First 'black' president of the American Psychological Association:

First 'black' Roman Catholic bishop:

First 'Black' to conduct a major symphony orchestra:

Topeka NAACP president and launcher of Brown vs. Board of Education:

First 'black' woman to earn a U.S. patent:

First 'black' female bank president:

Nor must we forget some of Black History's greatest pioneers.  Again, its creator, historian Carter G. Woodson:

Legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass:

'The Great Accommodator' Booker T. Washington:

Sociologist and historian W.E.B. Dubois:

When the white-ordered 'one-drop rule' held sway, Mulattoes were forbidden from claiming their European heritage.  Today, in a perfect inversion, the Afro-American community has seized hold of this same 'one-drop rule' in order to label even those octoroons with no visible African admixture 'Black.' 

Fashion, too, has changed.  Once, nearly anyone who could 'pass' for White did; today it has become well-considered to possess any and all DNA other than European.  But in many places and times, Mulattoes have functioned as a separate caste, proud of their difference, proud to be Something Else.  Alice Walker's daughter Rebecca, on our current president:
"Of course Obama is black. And he's not black, too," Walker said. "He's white, and he's not white, too. Obama is whatever people project onto him ... he's a lot of things, and neither of them necessarily exclude the other."

Christopher Hitchens, on Nov. 4, 2008:
"We do not have our first black president.  He is not black. He is as black as he is white."

The identity of 'Mulatto' has fallen out of fashion in the U.S.; this blog does not see why it should.  From his nearly 400-page 1918 investigation of 'The Mulatto in the United States', E.B. Reuter came to the following conclusion:  

According to the strictness or the looseness of the definition of full-blooded Negro that is used, and the high or low degree of superiority that is accepted as the test, the twenty per cent of mixed-bloods among the American Negroes have produced eighty-five per cent or upwards of the race's superior men.

Our quick visual perusal of 'Black History Month's' great men and women may or may not lead us to a similar conclusion.  But it is worth remembering that 'biracials' or 'mulattoes' have been discouraged for many years now from celebrating or even acknowledging their European blood and heritage.  This blog takes the position that that is an unfortunate state of affairs.  Sane racial policy would come back to a more finely-graded categorisation of the ethnic groups in America.  We shall leave Mr. Reuter with the final word:

In any study and discussion of the race problem, scientific accuracy as well as a decent regard for simple truth requires that the writer indicates whether his discussion has to do with full-blooded Negroes or with the men of mixed blood.  The failure to make this simple and elementary distinction, more than any other one thing, has made the vast bulk of the literature relating to the Negro in America either worthless or vicious.

Thank you for reading. We shall be back to posting new material very soon.


Anonymous said...

Currently, as I understand it those who work in the study of genetics and intelligence appear to believe that polygenic traits (like height or intelligence) exhibit statistically normal relationships, i.e., we see reversion to the mean.

This does not appear to be the case to me. My own family is a screaming outlier (I have three sons whose intelligence constitutes an incredibly improbable condition; my IQ is mid-140's as are all three of theirs, while their mother's IQ is above average by surrogate test, and well above average in life performance.) A professional researcher in the field of intelligence all but said that this most unlikely.

I relate this personal case only to suggest that the normal-distribution assumptions surrounding polygenic traits is, to me, baloney. I think there is clear evidence that some kind of dominance still exists here, even if it's not strictly Medelian. This is relevant to your blog post because to me it's self-evident that in numerous traits, genes of those with African ancestry are dominant. It's not simply a "50-50" blend when a NW European produces kids with a Sub-Saharan African. The latter's polygenic traits dominate.

What happens when genetic researchers finally confront the fact that the mean to which Africans revert has more weight than does the mean to which a NW European would revert, such that (for example) the mean IQ of an "average" American Black crossed with an "average" American white would cluster closer to the American Black mean (85) than to the midpoint of 85 and 102 (the white mean.)

PS: As long as Affirmative Action and race-based set-asides exist, the "accomplishments" of all blacks are laughably tainted. Black judge, black doctor, black general, etc., etc., all looks like what happens when a high school basketball team "honors" some Down Syndrome kid by letting the kid shoot for the hoop at half-time.

Black history month thus looks like the Special Olympics, and this is true even for blacks whose "accomplishments" occurred a century or more ago, because of the "give 'em a hand" ethos that animated whites long before the SCOTUS enshrined unequal before the law in 1972.

PPS: The Age of Entitlement (2020) is reviewed here: https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/the-law-that-ate-the-constitution/ and offers an interesting view, that the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 created an inversion of the US Constitution and all since then has been one massive battle as to which "constitution" would prevail. It is my view, of course, that monetary, economic, social and political policies of the last 60 years are a Doomsday Device that cannot be disarmed. Sooner or later the collective trust and optimism that form the glue holding this idiocy together will evaporate, and America's disparate peoples, shuffled together like a deck of cards, will engage in a Hobbesian war of all against all.

Anonymous said...

Hello, dc.sunsets. Why are you posting as anonymous? James Flynn points out that children with a white mother and a black father have an eight-point I.Q. advantage over those with a black mother and a white father. He also talks about one popular study that looked at births by American GI fathers and German mothers after WWII. African-American GIs sired children who scored almost identically to those of Caucasian fathers.

It is also interesting to note that Southern Italians who immigrated to the States in the 1920's and 1930's typically scored in the 70's and 80's--more than one standard deviation below Americans and Western Europeans on IQ tests. Those numbers were comparable to those of blacks and Hispanics at that time, and fueled discussion about alleged inferiority of Italian genetics. So what accounts for the scores of the Italian offspring to have steadily risen?

Interestingly, IQ results are noticeably different for black and half-black Brits and black Bermudians (Robert Lindsay talks about this phenomenon in greater detail). Studies also show that when Canadians (all races) are tested at American norms rather than Canadian norms, Canadian youth perform much higher and score higher than American youth. Maybe we should consider that there is something unique about American living and culture that depresses IQ's below the norms in other first-world economies.

dc.sunsets, perhaps you could reconcile theories of racial differences in genes for intelligence in light of several findings that multiracial children score no lower than groups who are supposed to be genetically advantaged, even though they are born into families with lower socio-economic status—which hereditarians argue is itself indicative of lower IQ.

As far as this future "Hobbesian war", in a word...no.

M.G. said...

What happens when genetic researchers finally confront the fact that the mean to which Africans revert has more weight than does the mean to which a NW European would revert,...)

I’m not sure about IQ, but as far as behavior, educational and professional accomplishment, etc., I think that in the U.S. a lot of it is down to culture. Even Blacks who are 80% European by blood still have to grow up in black communities. Places where street crime is glorified, getting good grades is “acting white” (thus shameful), getting married before having kids is a thing of the past… This kind of dysfunctional culture plays a big role in people’s life outcomes.

…looks like what happens when a high school basketball team "honors" some Down Syndrome kid by letting the kid shoot for the hoop at half-time.

Exactly. We in fact did a piece on this very theme, Sweet Little Lies.

The Age of Entitlement (2020) is reviewed here

I’m looking forward to reading this! Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

The study on the IQs of children fathered by black American GIs and ethnically German women doesn't show what you suggest. At the time the US Army rejected 10X as many black applicants as white. This means that black GIs at the time had a higher average IQ than the black male population of the US. Also about 25% of them were not black, they were North African. In addition, the expected IQ of an average German woman and an average American black would be halfway between the averages, or 92.5. The 96.5 found in the study is only 4pts better than that and it is easily explained by genetics. The black American GIs had higher IQs than the average American black man.