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(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race

RadioTimes with Marty Moss-Coane talks with Dr. Yaba Blay

Who is black? And who is not? “Mixed/Jamerian,” “Black/Latina,” “Appalachian African American” are examples of how some people of color describe themselves. Drexel University Africana Studies professor DR. YABA BLAY explores the nuances of the politics of racial identity and hair and skin color. Her work sheds light on the legacy of the outdated “one-drop” law – that if a person had a drop of black blood, they would be forever identified as black. Through interviews and research, she shows the diversity of the many ways bi-racial and multi-racial people self-identify. Her new portrait essay book is “(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race.”

artworks-000061459883-urhjrm-t200x200“(1)NE DROP: SHIFTING THE LENS ON RACE” (Forthcoming)

What exactly is Blackness?
What does it mean to be Black?
Is Blackness a matter of biology or consciousness? 
Who determines who is Black and who is not? 
Who’s Black, who’s not, and who cares?

In the United States, a Black person has come to be defined as any person with any known Black ancestry. Statutorily referred to as “the rule of hypodescent,” this definition of Blackness is more popularly known as the “one-drop rule,” meaning that one solitary drop of Black blood is enough to render a person Black. Said differently, the one-drop rule holds that a person with any trace of Black ancestry, however small or (in)visible, cannot be considered White. A method of social order that began almost immediately after the arrival of enslaved Africans in America, by 1910 it was the law of the land in almost all southern U.S. states. At a time when the one-drop rule functioned to protect and preserve White racial purity, Blackness was both a matter of biology and the law. One was either Black or White. Period. One hundred years later, however, the social and political landscape has changed. Or has it?

20121207_inq_ajohn07z-aDr. Yaba Blay is a professor, producer, and publisher. As a researcher and ethnographer, she uses personal and social narratives to disrupt fundamental assumptions about cultures and identities. As a cultural worker and producer, she uses images to inform consciousness, incite dialogue, and inspire others into action and transformation.

“(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race” sets out to explore the extent to which historical definitions of race continue to shape contemporary racial identities and lived experiences of racial difference, particularly among those for whom the legacy of the one-drop rule perceptibly lingers. Featuring the perspectives of 60 contributors representing 25 countries and combining candid narratives with simple yet striking portraiture, this book provides living testimony to the diversity of Blackness. Although contributors use varying terms to self-identify, they all see themselves as part of the larger racial, cultural, and social group generally referred to as Black. They all have experienced having their identity called into question simply because they do not fit neatly into the stereotypical “Black box” — dark skin, “kinky” hair, broad nose, full lips, etc. Most have been asked “What are you?” or the more politically correct “Where are you from?” numerous times throughout their lives. It is through contributors’ lived experiences with and lived imaginings of Black identity that we are able to visualize multiple possibilities for Blackness above and beyond the one-drop rule.

The inspiration behind CNN’s Black in America: “Who is Black in America?” and featured on CNN Newsroom,(1)ne Drop continues to spark much-needed dialogue about the intricacies and nuances of racial identity and the influence of skin color politics on questions of who is Black and who is not.

(1)ne Drop takes the very literal position that in order for us to see Blackness differently, we have to seeBlackness differently.  The debut title from BLACKprint Press(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race will be released on BLACK FRIDAY 2013 (November 29, 2013).

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