Ed Driscoll

Halle Berry and the New 'One-Drop' Rule: 'From Tragedy to Farce'

ShrinkWrapped notes, “One of the more interesting bits of knowledge that has emerged from the Psychoanalytic study of the mind over the last century is that unconscious conflicts can often be expressed in two diametrically opposed outcomes.” This is true on both an individual and societal level, of course:

In the 1960’s the Civil Rights movement removed the last vestiges of legal discrimination from Black (née Negro) Americans.  The Black Power movement and the increased status of the American Negro enabled the type of psychological jujitsu that America thrives upon; the formerly devalued morphed into its opposite and became idealized.   The Black American experience was more authentic than the bourgeoisie white suburban experience.  Black slang and fashion became big business.  Entire genres of music became dominated by Black artists (making immense fortunes for white businessmen.)  Rappers and ghetto style weer the new authenticity.

The election of Barack Obama, with a Black African father and white mother, represented the apotheosis of this transformation.  After a youth spent being “white” Barry, using all the privileges accorded Black Americans by white elites, he became the Black Barack Obama of his young adulthood.  His early adulthood was spent acquiring and developing his “authenticity” as a Black man.  Yet rather than finally lay to rest our obsession with race, the One-Drop Rule has now become farcical:

Halle Berry Cites ‘One-Drop’ Rule in Battle Over Whether her Daughter Is Black or White

Halle Berry said she is in a war of words with her ex-partner, Gabriel Aubry, about their daughter’s racial identity.

Berry, 44, is the daughter of a white mother, who was a psychiatric nurse, and a black father, who was a hospital attendant in the same ward. Aubry is French-Canadian and white.

The couple is in the middle of a bitter custody battle over their 2-year-old girl, Nahla.

“I feel she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory,” Berry said in an interview with Ebony magazine.

This is a fascinating bit of cultural development.  Halle Berry would no more raise her child and send her to a “Black” primary school than would Barack and Michelle Obama.

It’s also a reminder of how prescient Michael Graham was, when he wrote Redneck Nation nearly a decade ago. As he explained to Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review in late 2002:

Lopez: What’s a redneck exactly?

Graham: My Uncle Bobby is a redneck, exactly. I cropped tobacco for him one summer in North Carolina and it was like working the back lot of In The Heat Of The Night.

But when I talk about redneckery in Redneck Nation, I’m not talking about the Jeff Foxworthy stereotypes. I’m writing about the ideology: What did a typical white southern “redneck” believe at the beginning of the civil-rights movement 50 years ago?

He believed that race mattered, that race was determinant.
He believed that free speech was dangerous, spread by “outside agitators” who never learned the southern speech code: “If you can’t say something nice…drink.”
He believed that all women were either delicate creatures in need of special social protections, or they were road house trailer trash who would spank you and call you “Daddy.”
He believed that the more irrational and ridiculous your religion, the more fervently you believed in God.
He believed the most entertaining way to spend a Saturday night was to watch something get “blowed up real good.”

And on and on.

Lopez: How are we becoming a redneck nation?

Graham: Just look at the list above. Having fled these attitudes among my rural southern neighbors, I know live in a modern, liberal America where Ivy League colleges are building segregating housing because “race matters.” I actually heard one modern defender of segregated public schools (blacks-only academies) say “black people learn differently from white people.” Gee, I haven’t heard that since I was 12 — from a klan member!

Thanks to the efforts of northern liberals, we now live in an America where:

Conservative newspapers are regularly burned on the Berkeley campus and Harvard is developing speech codes to keep students from saying anything that might upset their neighbors.
Where feminist professors are having works of art like Goya’s The Naked Maja removed from classrooms because they create a hostile work environment; and where the model of modern womanhood is the Sex In The City, a.k.a. “White Trash On The Hudson.”
Where evangelical Christians are mocked by West Coast liberal elites who wear healing crystals, have conversations with trees and watch John Edwards — TV psychic.
And where the number one spectator sport from Maine to Malibu is — -NASCAR!

Lopez: Are you a self-hating southerner? I think I learned more redneck stereotypes from your book….

Graham: I was a self-loathing southerner for many years — in fact, that’s the premise of the book: I left the South looking for some place in America that was significantly different. I wanted to live in that mythical meritocracy called “The North.” It took me 20 years to figure out that the only difference between Brooklyn, New York and Birmingham, Alabama is that you can’t get a gun rack in a Trans-Am.

I’m pretty sure it’s equally tough to get a gun rack for a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG in Brentwood as well.