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.