Book: One Drop, but Many Views on Race

Tigist Selam is one of the contributors featured in the new book "(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race."

The New York Times

By MAURICE BERGER

In the 2010 census — when respondents could check more than one racial group — President Obama, the son of a black African father and a white mother, checked a single box: “Black, African-American or Negro.” Mr. Obama himself was unequivocal about it: “I self-identify as African-American — that’s how I am treated and that’s how I am viewed. And I’m proud of it.”

Yet the president’s words are nuanced: While he opts to classify himself as black, he implies that his racial identity is also contingent on how he is seen and treated by others in a nation prone to racial absolutes, no matter how he sees himself.

Those observations are among the provocative arguments presented by Yaba Blay in (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race (BLACKprint Press), which examine what it means to be black. In it, she demonstrates how racial identity is not just biological or genetic but also a matter of context and even personal choice. It is revealing that the president’s definitive answer came after years of being dogged by outside doubters who questioned not just his race, but also his very nationality.

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