In the March 2011 issue of Ebony, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry shares her thoughts on love, race and raising her daughter, Nahla. One of her quotes about how she views her daughter as black surprised me because Berry is biracial. The quote as I first saw it online didn’t include the first few sentences, where she talks about allowing her daughter to choose her own race. At the same time, her words at the end quote clearly show where she stands on the issue. The question and the full quote are below:

Ebony: Her father is French-Canadian Gabriel Aubry. Do you consider Nahla to be black or multiracial? How do you think about it?

Berry: What I think is that that’s something she’s going to have to decide. I’m not going to put a label on it. I had to decide for myself, and that’s what she’s going to have to do decide–how she identifies herself in the world. That’s how I identified myself. But I feel like she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.

Dear Halle Berry:

I understand where you are coming from on the one-drop rule. It’s what you were taught. It’s what most of us were taught. A child who has one drop of black blood is black. I once even told Simone, my oldest, that she was a black girl. She told me she was a white girl. It was then that I realized my child should not have to choose a race. It also isn’t my place to choose one for her.

Simone is biracial. She has a black mother and a white father. I will certainly hear from her and her younger sister, Nadia, what they believe themselves to be. Given what I know, they may change the way they identify themselves from time to time. It’s only to be expected as they mature and find out who they are. Whatever they discover, I have resolved to accept and respect their wishes.

Your quotes in March 2011 issue of Ebony remind me of a phrase: When you know better, you do better. Well, many of us know better than those who came before us. We now know that children with parents of different races do not have to cast aside part of their heritage only to embrace another. They can be anything they want or nothing at all. Why should they allow a social construct to define who they are? Why should they follow rigid rules designed to put them in categories? I think you know the answers as well as I do.

It’s a different time from when you and I were coming up. Children of mixed heritage were called all kind of names and even forced by society to make a decision. Love between the races was taboo. I admit we’re not the country I’d like for us to be, one where we don’t call each other hurtful names or make decisions and judgments based on the color of someone’s skin. Still, I know race relations are improving. That is just one of the reasons why I am asking you to reconsider your stand on the one-drop rule.

Sincerely,

Honeysmoke

7 thoughts to “Dear Halle Berry

  • Dominique

    Halle has ever right to consider her daughter whateer she wants, just as you choose to consider your daughters biracial she can consider her daughter black. Either way you slice it Nadia, Simone and Nahla are beautiful children of color.

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  • michelle

    Oh lordy. I can’t escape Halle Berry and her ex-man’s dirty laundry airing all up in public! Yes the nature of our not-at-all-post-racial society continues to perpetuate the one-drop rule, but we need not be ignorant of its history and the reasons why we shouldn’t just accept it as “just how it is.” Race is real, but it’s a reality we should all be working to undermine because it’s about power not humanity. The one-drop rule was created to render people powerless not to provide them with an identity to claim/celebrate. I think that point is lost in this Halle Berry narrative.

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  • Mrs. K

    Interesting post. I have to pick up a copy of Ebony to read the entire article.

    Reply
  • Stacey

    Enjoyed your post! Happy that you will allow your daughters to live as they wish! I know they are beautiful young women of color and have a wonderful heritage involving both black and white, God bless them! Halle probably should not have said she believe in the “one drop theory” — wrong choice of words. She probably should have just spoken about her pride in blackness and how she will teach her daughter to embrace all that she is, her black side and her french side – and from there her daughter can choose to do what she wishes…

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  • Courtney

    I don’t think identifying as one race more than another should be considered neglecting part of one’s heritage.

    I have a friend who is of Japanese and White descent but only identifies as Japanese. This doesn’t mean she hates her white father. It doesn’t mean she only eats Japanese food. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t acknowledge that she has white ancestry. What it does mean is that her experiences have been more defined by her Japanese heritage than her White heritage. It means that she’s a person of color. It means that when she’s talking about white privilege, she does not conflate that with herself, because having non-white heritage means she has not benefited from that institution.

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    • Dominique

      I agree Courtney, you can be both Black and Biracial, Asian and Biracial or Latino and Biracial. It is not exclusive.

      Reply
  • Blanc2

    The fact that Halle Berry is a highly visible celebrity doesn’t make her an expert on anything, Indeed, given that her celebrity springs almost entirely from her photogenic physiognomy, something she was born with and did not acheive nor earn, one questions whether she can even be a reliable source of information on what it takes to attain celebrity status.

    We as a nation love to quote our celebrities on all manner of things, but at the end of the day they are mere mortal humans who put their pants on one leg at a time.

    From what I see, our chiidren are growing up in an era in which biracial individuals are becomming a norm, not an exception. Along with this “new normal” comes an increased social acceptance of the idea of “multiracial” as a category separate from “black” or “white.”

    Reply

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