“Whereas the academic discourse on skin color politics tends to focus primarily on the sociopolitical disadvantages associated with having dark skin in a racialized society, (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race explores potential disadvantages related with having light skin, particularly among people of African descent – racial ambiguity and contested racial authenticity.
“Often times, we live by stereotypical notions of “Blackness” and believe that “Blackness” is (or should be) a homogeneous identity – one that should be visually identifiable. In this way, we think we know what “Black” looks like. Consequently, when confronted with people who self-identify as “Black,” but do not fit into our stereotypical model of Blackness, many of us not only question their identity, but also our potential relationship to them. Whether it is their skin color alone, or the combination of their skin color with any number of physical characteristics, something about their particular physical appearance compels us to call their Blackness into question.
(1)ne Drop seeks to challenge narrow perceptions of Blackness as both an identity and lived reality. Featuring the perspectives of 58 contributors representing 25 different countries and countries of origin, and combining candid memoirs with simple, yet striking, portraiture, this multi-platform project provides living testimony to the diversity of Blackness. Although contributors use varying terms to self-identify, they all see themselves as part of the larger racial, cultural, and social group generally referred to and known as “Black.” They all have experienced having their identity called into question simply because they don’t fit neatly into the stereotypical “Black box” — dark skin, “kinky” hair, broad nose, full lips, etc. – and most have been asked “What are you?” or the more politically correct, “Where are you from?” numerous times by various people throughout their lives. It is through contributors’ lived experiences with and lived imaginings of Black identity that we are able to visualize multiple possibilities for Blackness above and beyond appearances.
Featuring the work of well-noted photographers Noelle Théard, Ayana V. Jackson (France), Akintola Hanif, Richard Terborg (The Netherlands), Rushay Booysen (South Africa), Janet E. Dandrige, and Guma (Brasil), (1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race takes the very literal position that in order for us to see Blackness differently, we have to see Blackness differently.” -Dr. Yaba Blay
“When I applied to grad school or for jobs, all of a sudden the boxes come up. I had to make a choice, so for the first time, I checked ‘Black.’ And I didn’t think long about it because for me, it was based on personal circumstance. I just chose the box that I felt most at home with because I didn’t relate to any of the other options. From then on, if I were asked, I would answer, ‘I’m Black.’ Of course, people told me I couldn’t do that — that I couldn’t choose that box. But I had spent all of my life being pushed away by people. In Germany, I wasn’t even given the option to check anything because I wasn’t welcomed there. I had no box. For the first time, I was being given the option to identify myself. Now I had a box, and I was happy in that little box.”-Zun Lee – “Black”
“I was telling my students the other day that the most frequent question I get is, ‘What are you?’ People just randomly on the street, ‘What are you?’ I used to get really annoyed and militant about it. I’ve never been sure why people are so bold, because I would never. So I used to respond, ‘Human!’ But now I just try to figure out what it is somebody’s trying to know.” -Deborah Thomas – “Mixed/Jamaican”
“Most of the time, I can tell — somebody’s either just looking at me or they just flat out ask me, ‘What are you?’ I can’t tell you how many times I get that question. It’s funny, because now most people either say, ‘I thought you were XYZ when I first met you,’ or ‘I didn’t know what you were until you started talking and then I knew you were Black!” -James Bartlett – “Black”
“I may identify as a Biracial person — I’m Black and White — but if people see me as a Black woman, that’s how I’m treated. So I identify as a Black woman because I move through the world as a Black woman.”-Nuala Cabral – “Black/Mixed/Cape Verdean”
“I started covering my hair when I was about 14. It was an adjustment for me because in our society, especially within the Black community, we define ourselves very deeply by our hair. Your hair somehow identifies who you are, how Black you are, how beautiful you are, how polished you are, or your political inclinations. It was an adjustment because it felt like I was taking away part of my identity from people. The hijab itself can be a barrier in people’s perception of you and how well they think they can identify who you are. And yet, I think that’s the beauty of covering. You are forced to deal with yourself and your own self-identification.”-Sumaya Ellard – “Black American Muslim”
“A lot of people just look and see skin color. Your skin is White, therefore you’re White. Or are you? One girl said to me, ‘I’ve been wanting to ask you this question but I didn’t feel comfortable asking you because I thought that you might be offended, but are you Black or are you White?’ And I told her, ‘Well, I’m always Black.”-Sembene McFarland – “Black/African American”
Purchase (1)ne Drop: Shifting The Lens On Race here