The One Drop Rule

Shermer has had an abomination of a tweet called out by PZ Myers over on Pharyngula, and I’m sure most of you have read that. There are many good points to make about it and a number have been made there, but here I’d like to say something that hasn’t been mentioned yet over there. The tweet, if you haven’t read it, attempts to draw an equivalence between white pride and Black pride. This is actually a common tactic on the right, with many going as far as insisting that Black pride is worse as Black folk in the US should know better from their experiences suffering under white supremacy. And although I’m sure some truly believe this rhetoric, at its core it is dishonest. It is dishonest because it attempts to reframe behavior from one context, a Black context, in a white context. This leads to many problems, but it is particularly related to and relevant to the problematic historicization of the One Drop Rule in the US. Many people think they know the One Drop Rule. Many people think that they can categorically condemn it. I think this is too easy. I think it’s wrong, not least because most white people never even register awareness that there were always two, very different, One Drop Rules. Here, I’d like to offer some praise for one of them.

[Read more…]

On the Corner: Postscript to a Beginning

Taking nothing away from the importance of the post on the birth of intersectionality, it was both a bit long, and it was focussed more on what Kimberlé Crenshaw thought than my thinking about her thoughts. There are some nuggets that I think are important, things that we will need to remember as we continue to explore Intersectionality. But I think they are best placed in this separate PostScript:

[Read more…]

On the Corner: The Birth of Intersectionality

Intersectionality as we know it today was given life by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and social theorist. In the talk that brought the metaphor of the intersection into public discussion, she first noted:*1

in race discrimination cases, discrimination tends to be viewed in terms of sex- or class-privileged Blacks; in sex discrimination cases, the focus is on race- and class-privileged women.

She then explained some of the consequences of this:

This focus on the most privileged group members marginalizes those who are multiply-burdened and obscures claims that cannot be understood as resulting from discrete sources of discrimination. I suggest further that this focus on otherwise-privileged group members creates a distorted analysis of racism and sexism because the operative conceptions of race and sex become grounded in experiences that actually represent only a subset of a much more complex phenomenon

But why not simply include Black voices in feminism and women’s voices in anti-racism and call it good? For Crenshaw, it was because the effects of multiple oppressions are not merely linear increases, not merely additive.

[Read more…]