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One Drop
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One Drop
Shifting the Lens on Race
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Challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality to understand the diversity of what it means to be Black in the US and around the worldWhat exactly is Blackness and...
Challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality to understand the diversity of what it means to be Black in the US and around the worldWhat exactly is Blackness and...
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  • Challenges narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality to understand the diversity of what it means to be Black in the US and around the world
    What exactly is Blackness and 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 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 in almost all southern 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. Has the social and political landscape changed one hundred years later?
    One Drop explores the extent to which historical definitions of race continue to shape contemporary racial identities and lived experiences of racial difference. Featuring the perspectives of 60 contributors representing 25 countries and combining candid narratives with 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 have all had 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?” throughout their lives. It is through contributors’ lived experiences with and lived imaginings of Black identity that we can visualize multiple possibilities for Blackness.

About the Author-

  • Dr. Yaba Blay is a scholar-activist and cultural creative whose work centers the lived experiences of Black women and girls. She has launched viral campaigns including #PrettyPeriod and #ProfessionalBlackGirl and has appeared on CNN, BET, MSNBC, and NPR. Dr. Blay’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Ebony, Essence, and The Root. A thought leader on Black racial identity, colorism, and beauty politics, she is a globally sought-after speaker and consultant. Connect with her online at yabablay.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 4, 2021
    Blay, founder of the Professional Black Girl website, debuts with a wide-angled look at racial identity based on interviews with more than 50 multiracial people in the U.S. Blay traces the evolution of America’s “one-drop rule” that “a person with any trace of Black ancestry, however small or (in)visible, cannot be considered White” from the first statutory definition of race in a 1705 Virginia law banning interracial marriage, to the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling against antimiscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia. Noting the “exponential” increase in America’s multiracial population since the Loving case, Blay speaks with people who identify as Black yet have had “their identity called into question because they don’t necessarily fit into the ‘Black box.’ ” These include James Scott, a self-identified “Appalachian African American” from Athens, Ohio, with a Black father and a white mother, who recounts being outed as Black by a fourth-grade classmate, and Sosena Solomon, from Ethiopia, who explains how she’s treated differently in the U.S. based on whether she wears her hair curly or straight. Each profile features a photograph of the person interviewed, providing a visual accompaniment to the book’s nuanced and forthright discussions of how racial identities are formed and expressed. The result is an appealingly direct look at one of the most complex issues in American life. Photos.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2021
    A collection of essays and photographs that examine what it means to be Black. "Is Blackness a matter of biology or consciousness? Who determines who is Black and who is not--the state, the society, or the individual? Who is Black, who is not, and who cares?" These are questions sparked by the "one-drop rule" that says any amount of "Black blood" renders a person Black. Blay opens with a primer on the history of the one-drop rule in the U.S., the laws that codified it, and the rulings that later deemed it unconstitutional. Through nearly 60 crafted first-person essays paired with striking portraiture of the essayists, the collection explores how historical definitions of race continue to influence our present-day view of racial identity. The author interviewed 70 people ages 21 to 103, representing 25 countries, with most living in the U.S. The contributors self-identify in various ways, but all consider themselves part of the racial and cultural group called "Black people," and all have had their Blackness questioned because of their physical appearance. Grouped into three categories--Mixed Black, American Black, and Diaspora Black--the essays are heartfelt and provocative, a "testament to the power of Blackness, not the inferiority of Blackness." Danielle Ayer ("Black and Mennonite") writes of her childhood: "Race was never, and I mean never, discussed growing up." Koko Zauditu-Selassie, who is "lighter than Halle Berry," identifies as African. Jay Smooth prefers "Mixed" to "Biracial," and Guyanese American Anita Persaud Holland recalls an in-law asking her husband about her: "She's not a regular old [N-word] is she?" Blay, who identifies as a "Black/American-born Ghanaian/African" scholar, puts her views of Blackness under the microscope with a candid, reflective essay of her own. There's also an essay by the book's director of photography, Noelle Th�ard, who is Haitian. Black, beautiful, and bound to spark necessary conversations.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times best-selling author "When people ask, what does it mean to love Blackness, one answer is the work of Yaba Blay. Academic, scholar, public intellectual, lover of Black folk and Black culture, Yaba is one of the most brilliant and committed critics and advocates writing and thinking and working on behalf of Black people today."
  • Brittney Cooper, author of the New York Times bestseller Eloquent Rage "One Drop visually stuns while showing us the many different and often surprising faces of Blackness that make up the Americas. Yaba Blay is a scholar and cultural worker whose unapologetic love and centering of Black women and girls has made her one of today's most formidable voices. In a world that shreds Black women's self-esteem in big and small ways every day, we depend on Blay's writing, Instagram tutorials, and undaunted compassion to put us back together again."

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    Beacon Press
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