The classification of people based on their personal characteristics is a tool used as a way of categorizing those people into varying groups. However, when these groups are created, it allows for a hierarchical system in which one group seemingly surpasses another. This happens when we use race as a classification system. The manufactured and socially constructed idea of race leads to the inevitable superiority of one race over another. Groupings of race have historically been due to the amount of blood a person has originating from a particular racial group. Exploring the use of blood to catalogue people in a way of racialization lends itself to a deeper look into why this method is used and for whom does it benefit. Through processes of racialization, power is given and taken away based on man-made classifications which can be overturned through the use of one’s own personal identity.
Specifically looking at African Americans in the United States, the One Drop Rule of blood seemed to dominate the classification of a person’s race. This was constructed through the use of the government’s census data and the instructions given to the census enumerators. In the late 19th century, the enumerators were told to “be particularly careful to distinguish blacks, mulattos, quadroons, and octoroons” (Nobles 2000: 188). Each one of these distinct categories was broken down by the amount of black blood that these people contained. The very basis of simplifying race in this manner creates a hierarchy reaching from white to black documenting each level along the way. In 1930, this rhetoric was changed altogether to the use of the term “Negro” saying that they should be marked in the census as such “no matter how ...
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... his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world” (1903: 9). Both aspects of himself create his racial identity. In both aforementioned examples of using blood to create distinct racial groups, it completely erases part of a person’s identity. Du Bois comments on how each part of himself has something to offer to the world. Every aspect of culture, genealogy, and experience contributes to the makeup of a person and how they experience the world. Assigning and defining people makes a loop of control in which all those in the minority culture are left bereft of power, even the power to define who they are. Looking beyond blood within the construction of race, the formation of one’s identity cripples racial hierarchies by allowing an individual to identify in multiple racial groups based on a myriad of factors.
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