Nowadays, melanin is a form of capital. The more melanin you have, the more you seem to be equipped to discuss “blackness” and black culture. Luvvie took on biracial activists stating they were making up for the “lack of melanin” in their skin. “Dr.” Umar Johnson took on another “motivational speaker,” repeatedly highlighting he was “light skinned” as if it was a detriment and disqualified him. Aries Spears, better known as that dude who does Bill Cosby impressions quite well, got a two piece and a biscuit by a guy who he repeatedly disparaged about his lighter skin. I believe he said to him, “Light skinned N****s are the loudest N****s who wish they could be black,” as if this man wasn’t black…
We have come into an age where we “black check” each other. We actually treat melanin as currency to allow people to discuss issues within our community. If you don’t have enough “currency,” your responses/opinions are treated as less than or faulty. However, the theory of colorism is rampant within all groups of color; it is not necessarily a “black only” trait.
To maybe shed some light on why colorism became so widespread within our community, I think we should explore one of the three “racial integrity” laws of Virginia: the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
Interracial relationships had been going on long before anyone knew about them; whether they were consensual or non-consensual (but THAT is another story). Children that were the products of such unions, and had a skintone that was extremely fair, would be able to function in society as white. In other words, they were “passing.”
However, in March of 1924, Virginia passed a law that would no longer allow “passing.” The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 required that citizens be recorded as being either of the following: white or colored. If you had even “one drop” of African or Native American blood in your stream, you were considered “colored.” Hence, the “one-drop” rule. It did not matter if the blood came from your immediate parent or your grandparent; if any of them had a drop of “colored” blood, you were classified as colored. This law also defined the following:
A Mulatto is the offspring of a white person and a negro
A Quadroon is the offspring of a mulatto and a white person
An Octoroon is the offspring of a quadroon and a white person
Yes, this was written…as a LAW! This law also was able to affirm the state of Virgina’s ban on interracial marriage. In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was the court case that overturned this law.
I mentioned this law for a reason. You can review all three of the laws in detail here (because there are two other laws I didn’t discuss). I wanted to highlight how no matter the amount of melanated (because I REFUSE to call it Negro) blood you have in your body, you were still considered black. Even though these laws were abolished or deemed “unconstitutional,” it still doesn’t negate the fact that many moons ago, even if you had ONE drop of non-white blood, you were considered “colored.” It also doesn’t negate the fact that there are many white people who still hold on to these beliefs (even to this day).
Back in 1924, White lawmakers used the Racial Integrity law to say that if you had a…ahem…drop of non-white blood, you weren’t pure and were seen as less than. So I find it so disheartening that black people are using the one-drop rule in a contrasting way to demonize our biracial brothers and sisters. Saying to biracial people that they are “not black” or “overcompensating for their lack of melanin” is ridiculous and just plain cruel. Especially considering that years ago, black people used to use something called the “Brown Paper Bag Test” and heralded those with lighter skin tones as “better” or “more privileged.” So in arenas/areas where darker hued people were not able to prosper or not accepted, lighter hued brothers and sisters were able to navigate those spaces.
As a people, we have to do better. Whether you have one drop, two drops or a whole dang bucket of black blood in your system, you should be free to identify as black. The beauty of blackness comes in an array of shades that we should be celebrating – not disparaging because the shade may have just a touch of cream. If you are a lover of black people, it calls on you to love ALL black people.