Identity + Race Relations

Black Interraciality, One-Drop Rule, & the Mixed Race Identity Complex

On racial classification and their intricate impact on interracial families and children.

Quintessa L. Williams
Published in
6 min readSep 1, 2023

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Art Illustration of an Interracial Family by Adam Nikelewicz | Photo Courtesy of Commarts

In a recent interview on The Cool Mom Code Podcast, actress Tia Mowry opened up about identifying as a Black woman despite her mixed-race identity. Mowry is the twin sister to Tamera Mowry, whose mother is of Afro-Bahamian descent and father is of English and Irish ancestry.

“I identify myself as a Black woman. My mother is Black. My mother is dark-skinned and I have seen and felt her struggles as being a Black woman. Of course, my dad is white, but I am an extension of my mother. So yes I am mixed-race, but I identify as a Black woman because that is how I am seen and viewed.”

Mowry also discussed growing up under the racial classification of the one-drop rule and how it helped her identify the purpose of representation in her community. The one-drop rule is a legal concept that asserts any person with one ancestor or one “drop” of African-American ancestry, is considered Black.

Although the concept originated prior, it became prominent in the 20th century, concerning those of mixed-race backgrounds. Between the practice of establishing application by white Americans and ‘passing for white’ to maintain degrees of white supremacy, the one-drop rule stood for the notion that mixed-race people who were even partially considered a part of Black ancestry, were automatically assigned as Black.

The concept also provides an umbrella over subconcepts such as:

  • Hypodescent: referring to the automatic assignment of children of an interracial union to the group society deems as subordinate.
  • Hyperdescent: referring to the automatic assignment of children of an interracial union to the group society deems as dominant or superior.
  • Patrilineality: the assignment of race according to the father.
  • Matrilineality: the assignment of race according to the mother.

Since the 20th-century inception of the one-drop rule, widespread critical discourse on the validity of the concept has…

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Quintessa L. Williams
ZORA
Writer for

Afra-American Journalist 📝📚| #WEOC | Blacktivist | EIC of TDQ | Editor for Cultured & AfroSapiophile. Bylines in The Root, MadameNoire, ZORA, & Momentum.