“You see, unfortunately, I am not Black. There are lots of different kinds of blood in our family. But here in the United States , the word “Negro” is used to mean anyone who has any Negro blood at all in his veins.”
–from Langston Hughes’ “The Big Sea,” 1940.

The “one drop rule” originated in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and it dictated that a person would be classified as Black, if he or she appeared to have even a drop of “Negro blood” running through his or her veins.
Ultimately, the rule’s purpose was to prevent biracial “fair-skinned” African Americans from “passing” as Caucasians in order to avoid segregation laws and disfranchisement. And because the rule was given legal sanction in many southern states, it became accepted by most southerners, including those who were biracial.
Today, racial discrimination laws are a thing of the past (so they say). However, the “one-drop” concept is still alive and well, serving as the largest stumbling block for brothers and sisters everywhere.
“Being Black in this country is a political construct,” said Leila McDowell vice president of NAACP communications for the in published reports. Even though my father is White, and I have half his genes, when I apply for a loan, when I walk into the car lot, when I apply for a job, they don’t see me as half White, they see me as Black,” she added.
But McDowell isn’t alone in her stance concerning race. In fact, some African-Americans with one White parent are consciously deciding to only check the box for “Black” on their census form, even though the census allows people to identify themselves by more than one race.
“I’ve always just checked Black on my form,” said Laura Martin, a 29-year-old university employee in Las Vegas, who has a Black father and White mother. “I grew up surrounded by Black family and friends, listening to Black music and (was) active in Black causes–so I’m Black.”
There were 784,764 U.S. residents who described themselves as biracial in the 2000 census. And though this number is expected to increase, it’s impossible to know how many “mixed” persons will be counted as Black alone, once the new census forms are tallied.
Interestingly, President Barack Obam is a part of this group. He declined to check the box for “White” on his census form, despite his mother’s European ancestry. Obama offered no explanation, but McDowell has an idea. “Put a hoodie on him and have him walk down an alley, and see how biracial he is then,” she said in published reports. “If you have any identifying characteristics, you’re Black.”
There is evidence, however, that while some may resist being identified as biracial, White attitudes are headed in that direction. In a January poll by the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Caucasians said Obama is “mixed race” and 24 percent said he is Black. Contrastingly, 55 percent of Black people said Obama is Black and 34 percent said he is mixed.
This also may represent a new twist on the “one-drop” concept. Now a brown-skinned man is president, and for many White people, having one White parent means that you’re not Black.
Still, to Steve Bumbaugh, a 43-year-old foundation director in Los Angeles, his mixed racial background is no more of an advantage today than it would have been in yesteryear.