By Jeffrey Kluger Friday, December 10, 2010 | 104 comments
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Related Topics:Asian, bias, black, hypodescent, Mental Health, one-drop rule, race, Race, white
Never mind what you've heard. Halle Berry was not the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was actually the 74th white one. And never mind all this talk about America electing its first black President; Barack Obama is actually the 44th white man to hold the job.
That, at any rate, is as fair a conclusion as any, given that Berry and Obama and millions like them are the products of one black parent and one white one. And yet it's a conclusion that almost no one ever reaches. Part-black generally means all-black in Americans' minds. Just as part-Asian or part-Hispanic or part-anything-else usually puts individuals in those minority-groups' camps. Such a curious bias is as old as the nation itself, and a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology illustrates just how stubborn it is — and suggests just what may be behind it. (More on Time.com: They All Look the Same: How Racism Works Neurologically)
It was in 1662 that the colony of Virginia first tried to codify the legal definition of people whose racial pedigree was less than completely pure. To make things simple in a land in which plantation owners were already taking sexual liberties with their slaves, the lawmakers established what they called the "one-drop" rule — also known as hypodescent — declaring that any person with mixed blood who resulted from such a pairing would be assigned the race of the nonwhite parent.
That seemed clear enough, but things got tricky when the nonwhite ancestor was a grandparent or a great-grandparent and the minority blood became increasingly diluted. Creative legislators, however, had answers for that too. The so-called "blood-fraction" laws of 1705 ruled that anyone who was at least 1/8 black — which meant one black great grandparent — could not be labeled white. A 1911 Arkansas law went further, declaring that citizens would be considered black if they had "any Negro blood whatever." And if you think that all that is an artifact of a less enlightened time, think again. A 1970 Louisiana law defined as black anyone who had at least 1/32 African-American blood — and in 1985, a state court upheld the legislation.
But this much can be said for the folks who wrote such nasty rules: They may have been no better than most other Americans, but they were no worse either, at least in their tendency to apply the hypodescent rule in their own minds, often unconcsiously. To test how this phenomenon applies today, a team of Harvard University psychologists led by PhD student Arnold K. Ho gathered a sample group of black, white and Asian volunteers and showed them computer-generated images of individuals designed to look either black-white or Asian-white. They also showed them family trees that depicted various degrees of racial commingling.
Repeatedly, the subjects hypodescended the individuals both in the pictures and in the diagrams, but not always consistently. People who were just one-quarter Asian or one-quarter black, for example, were overwhelmingly assigned to the minority group, but this happened somewhat less frequently for the Asians.When the experimenters used imaging software to adjust the pictures of the mixed-race individuals subtly, the data became even more precise. On a scale of 5% white and 95% black to 95% white and 5% black, the target images generally had to cross the 68% white threshold before subjects identified the people as Caucasian. For Asian-white faces the bar was set lower — but only slightly — at 63%. And perhaps surprisingly, it was not just white subjects who showed this bias; Asians and blacks applied the one-drop rule with about the same frequency. Isn't that a REJECTION of the "one drop rule"?
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/10/w ... z183dTC8GK
Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/10/w ... z183dLUt4r
Evidence for hypodescent and racial hierarchy in the categorization and perception of biracial individuals.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Published online: 2010-11-22
Arnold K. Ho
Department of Psychology
Jim Sidanius, Professor of Psychology and African and African American Studies
Daniel T. Levin, Professor of Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies
Mahzarin R. Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics
Individuals who qualify equally for membership in two racial groups provide a rare window into social categorization and perception. In 5 experiments, we tested the extent to which a rule of hypodescent, whereby biracial individuals are assigned the status of their socially subordinate parent group, would govern perceptions of Asian–White and Black–White targets. In Experiment 1, in spite of posing explicit questions concerning Asian–White and Black–White targets, hypodescent was observed in both cases and more strongly in Black–White social categorization. Experiments 2A and 2B used a speeded response task and again revealed evidence of hypodescent in both cases, as well as a stronger effect in the Black–White target condition. In Experiments 3A and 3B, social perception was studied with a face-morphing task. Participants required a face to be lower in proportion minority to be perceived as minority than in proportion White to be perceived as White. Again, the threshold for being perceived as White was higher for Black–White than for Asian–White targets. An independent categorization task in Experiment 3B further confirmed the rule of hypodescent and variation in it that reflected the current racial hierarchy in the United States. These results documenting biases in the social categorization and perception of biracials have implications for resistance to change in the American racial hierarchy.http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2010-24178-001