45 minutes, 2001 Producer/ Director: James Banks, Elixer Productions
ABOUT THE FILM
One Drop Rule explores a recurring and divisive issue in African American communities - skin color. Candid, sometimes painful, but also often funny, it picks up where California Newsreel's earlier release A Question of Color leaves off. The film inter-cuts intimate interviews with darker skinned African Americans, lighter skinned African Americans and inter-racial children of Black and white parents. In the process it investigates color consciousness, a sensitive topic within the Black community, with great tact and a clear commitment to healing divisions.
The infamous "one drop rule" dictated that anyone would be considered Black if they had any African ancestry and was given legal saction in many states. One Drop Rule argues that, in practice, Blacks with more European features, lighter complexion and straighter hair, have been favored over those with a more African appearance. Interviewees testify that even today whites seem to feel more comfortable with and give preference to Blacks who more closely resemble themselves.
Darker skinned African Americans recall being given baths in Tide in a vain attempt to lighten their skins. They were told to straighten their hair and stay out of the sun lest they become darker. They came to envy the lighter skinned blacks favored by the mass media, their community and themselves. At the same time, lighter skinned African Americans recount the hostility of some of their Black brothers and sisters who assumed they felt superior to them because of their complexion. They remember having to prove their blackness by speaking "Ebonics" and denying their middle class origins.
Participants discuss the stresses of inter-racial dating in the face of pressure from family and friends. Many Black women resent black men who date white women as a reflection on all Black women. Conversely, black women who date white men face rejection from their boyfriend's family. The children of inter-racial marriages discuss being forced by others to chose between two cultural identities. They explain the added burden of not being readily accepted by either racial group.
One Drop Rule asks what makes someone Black? Is it "one drop of blood?" A way of speaking and dressing? One woman says that being Black is really a matter of attitude, a world view, In the end One Drop Rule becomes an eloquent plea that, in the words of Martin Luther King, we judge each other "not by the color of our skin but the content of our character."
"An insightful and sobering reflection of current views regarding the many meanings of skin color, including related issues of status, privilege, and intra-racial conflict. Be sure to see this!"
Fred L. Hord, Ph.D. Executive Director, Association of Black Culture Centers
"An excellent educational tool to open honest dialogue about a complex and profoundly effecting subject.
Toi Derricotte, University of Pittsburgh
"A wonderful mix of commentary and information that will lead to interesting discussions. This is a film that should find a home in academic and school libraries."
"A thought-provoking production that promises to elicit discussion."