Sunday, December 12, 2010
Image by Getty Images via @daylifeStudy: Barack Obama Seen as Being More Black Than White - BV Black Spin
A recent study out of Harvard University has concluded that the typical adult American sees mixed-race Americans like Barack Obama and Halle Berry as being more black than white. The study, conducted by Arnold K. Ho, a doctoral student of Psychology at Harvard, says that even when bi-racial people are equally mixed with both the white and black races, they are seen as being more black than white.
Ho conducted the study with James Sidanius, a Professor of Psychology and African American studies, also at Harvard.
The authors interpret their findings to relate to the "one-drop rule," based on a 1662 law in Virginia that connected mixed-race individuals to their lower social class. Even as recently as 1985, a Louisiana court ruled that a woman with a black great-great-great-great grandmother could not claim that she was white on her passport.
"One of the remarkable things about our research on hypodescent is what it tells us about the hierarchical nature of race relations in the United States," Sidanius said. "Hypodescent against blacks remains a relatively powerful force within American society."
The work is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study certainly opens the mind toward noticing the things that are typically left out of our consciousness. Racial divisions are so deeply entrenched in our society that they are accepted as part of our nation's default state of existence. Matters are made worse by the fact that African Americans have been so terribly miseducated about the horrors we've experienced in this country and our nation refuses to acknowledge how 400 years of sub-human treatment affects all of us today. One interesting example is the finding of a researcher that black babies were used as alligator bait during the 1800s. The researcher dug further into the matter after wondering why there are so many postcards from 100 years ago that featured black babies running away from hungry alligators.
I am not one to disagree with the conclusions of the scholars who conducted the Harvard study, given that their explanation for the findings seem quite plausible. Another possibility, however, is that skin complexion and hair texture may also play a role in how mixed race Americans are perceived. Given that we are used to seeing black people in all different shades, it's not out of the question that Halle and Barack are identified as being black primarily because they look like other black people.
One personal example of the strength of the black gene pool is my God daughter, who has a white grandmother, a bi-racial mother and a father from Ghana. There is nothing about her dark, beautiful skin that would make you think that she could possibly be one-quarter white. Now, if she looked white and called herself white, I can't imagine anyone challenging her self-identity. But her father's African blood seemed to step into her DNA and take over the whole party.
Another reason that Halle Berry and President Obama might be considered black is because they also identify themselves as being black. Perhaps it was social pressure or something even more sinister, but Barack Obama has never identified himself as anything other than a black man (although it may have cost him politically, since Republicans have consistently tried to radicalize his image), and the same is true for Halle Berry. If anything, it might be the case that mixed-race individuals are made to feel that they can't be proud of the white side of their family, for fear of being considered a sell-out. For example, Tiger Woods' world-famous "Cablinasian" remark to describe his pride in being of mixed race was met with ridicule from quite a few members of the African American community. So, while we cannot argue that black people have been consistently relegated to a lower socio-economic class, the truth is that black people also some ability to define ourselves.