Writing at ColorLines, Akiba Solomon interviews Yaba Blay, a contributing producer of CNN’s “Who Is Black in America?” segment about the lingering pain of the “one drop” rule, which Blay says is racist but represents how blacks are defined.
Keep the concept of privilege-clinging in the back of your mind as you check out the work and words of Dr. Yaba Blay, the driving force behind “Who Is Black in America?” the fifth installment of CNN’s “Black in America” series. Using Blay’s Kickstarter-funded multimedia collaboration with photographer Noelle Theard as a starting point, the show focuses on how people of African descent practice colorism, enforce identities based on appearance and the challenges of self-definition for multiracial people who aren’t recognizably black. I caught up with Blay, an assistant professor of Africana Studies at Philadelphia’s Drexel University (and, full disclosure, a Facebook-buddy-turned-friend), a few days after she co-hosted a special screening of the program on campus. Here, an edited, condensed version of our discussion.
So what‘s the origin of the (1)ne Drop Project?
Oftentimes we do research that’s reflective of our lived experiences. So I’ve been personally impacted by colorism growing up as a West African, dark-skinned girl in New Orleans where you’ve got [self-described] black, white and Creole [cultures] and skin color politics are at the forefront of our social relationships there. I’ve always been very aware that I’m dark-skinned, in fact very dark-skinned … I looked at colorism from the standard direction as far as how we look at the disadvantages of having dark skin in a racialized society. But there was always a part of me that wanted to explore the other side of this … And actually, the first iteration of this project was called “The Other Side of Blackness,” but “(1)ne Drop” just emerged [as a] more catchy name. I’ve always known that light-skinned people were having their own experiences with skin color politics, but I wasn’t necessarily sure how to approach the question. There are black people all over the world, but the imagery connected to [blackness] has been more nebulous. If I take my students on study abroad, say in Brazil, will they be able to recognize the black people? Or are they just living with the idea that the black people are the ones who look familiar?
Read Akiba Solomon’s entire piece at ColorLines.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.