I love this multi-racial graphic from National Geographic portraying variously mixed-raced people. It challenges stereotypes, forces you to examine your own stereotypes, all without saying a word.
I took a couple of screen shots. But it’s worth it to head on over to National Geographic and click on each picture to see how these people self-identify, along with their technical racial background/mixture.
This graphic may make you think over something different, but it reminded me again of how powerful old rules and laws are, how they still affect the way people self-identify.
The one-drop rule was a designation made during slavery days and Jim Crow days when people were forced to identify as being black, no matter what their mixture of ancestry. Some, who were light-skinned enough, broke all the laws of society and “passed,” identifying themselves in whatever manner they chose to, most likely in order to have a more comfortable and affluent life. But they often lost their families and all sense of their own histories in order to make this new life for themselves.
Today, people don’t need to “pass” in order make their lives more comfortable, but many still live with various types of stigma or repression based on skin color.
This is significant in my life because while Annika looks very typically black, she lives in a very white world. We have lots of white friends. She’s always been a minority at her schools, even in her new school, which is more diverse than her preschools, she’s still a significant minority in her classroom. And then there’s me, one of the most significant people in her life, a white person.
The one-drop rule still is still in effect in our country, whether we realize it or not. The one-drop rule outweighs all of your environmental influences, your genetics, and your own perspective. It forces a narrow and inauthentic way of thinking onto a significant part of the population.
What I like about this graphic in particular is that a many of the self-identifications stick out because they don’t necessarily match what they look like.
What’s inside matters. Your environment matters. And what you look like on the outside, may not necessarily mesh with what’s on the inside.
Honestly, how Annika chooses to self-identify is not important to me. What’s important to me is that she feels free enough to make that choice herself.