Traditionally, in America, if you were just a teeny-weeny bit black, you'd always been considered black. This arbitrary color line was even codified by the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, an 1896 case brought by an octoroon light enough to pass who sued for the right to sit in the "white only" section of a segregated train traveling through the South.
Much to Homer Plessy's chagrin, the Court sided with the State of Louisiana, taking judicial notice of the "one-drop rule," ruling that "a Negro or black is any person with any black ancestry." In other words, you could be black without looking black.
Fast-forward to the present, the arguably post-racial age of Obama, a time when the country has a biracial president, who nevertheless refers to himself to African-American. The nation's population has more mixed ancestry than ever nowadays, which is reflected in the latest census offering over a dozen race options to check off, as well as "Other," if none of the above is to your liking.
- Written by Kam Williams