The One-Drop Rule revisited

In the post-Reconstruction era of the late 19th century, a disgusting and disgraceful practice was put into place in the American South as a key component of the Jim Crow anti-black laws.  The practice was the "One-Drop Rule."  To wit, if a person's genetic heritage contained just a trace of black ancestry ("one drop of black blood"), the person would be legally considered black and subject to the harshly restrictive "Jim Crow" discriminatory laws.

Recent developments in technology and the availability of DNA testing for the general public have thrown a wrench into racial and ethnic classifications, which presents a quandary for professional diversity and affirmative action advocates, government organizations, and employers.  The argument could and should be made that since the One-Drop Rule penalized and oppressed individuals with trace amounts of minority ancestry, it should now work in favor of those who discover they have even trace amounts of such ancestry.  

DNA technology provides a high-tech strategy for civil disobedience.  For example, if a person's DNA results indicate even a trace of ancestry from the "Iberian peninsula" (Spain), he can check the "Latino/Hispanic" box under application of the one-drop rule.  The federal government defines Hispanic or Latino as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."

The "white" racial category was solidified in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the implementation of affirmative action practices that followed.  "White" was therefore defined as "not Hispanic or Latino" – in other words, a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.  Strangely, ethnic groups that were considered other than white or not fully white (and were routinely discriminated against and sometimes lynched) were now included in this catch-all definition of "whiteness."  These groups included Jews, Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, and others not of Northern European or Protestant stock.  What an amazing metamorphosis!  These groups, with the stroke of a pen, immediately had their historical status changed from the oppressed to "oppressors of people of color."

To make matters worse, it was now legal to deny these ethnic "whites" opportunities through the operation of affirmative action policies.  After all, a "white" hiring manager can't discriminate against another "white" as defined by the EEOC.

If DNA testing provides a justification for ethnic whites to claim minority status, I say go for it. Any trace of "Iberian peninsula" DNA ancestry, for example, provides the justification under the one-drop rule to "check the Hispanic box" on college and employment applications.  That one act of civil disobedience may eventually lead to the collapse of the discriminatory policy of affirmative action.  Perhaps at that point, we will finally evaluate individuals based solely on the content of their character and the qualifications they bring to the table.

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