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Never mind what you’ve heard. Halle Berry was not the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was actually the 74th white one. And never mind all this talk about America electing its first black President; Barack Obama is actually the 44th white man to hold the job, according to Time magazine:

That, at any rate, is as fair a conclusion as any, given that Berry and Obama and millions like them are the products of one black parent and one white one. And yet it’s a conclusion that almost no one ever reaches. Part-black generally means all-black in Americans’ minds. Just as part-Asian or part-Hispanic or part-anything-else usually puts individuals in those minority-groups’ camps. Such a curious bias is as old as the nation itself, and a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology illustrates just how stubborn it is — and suggests just what may be behind it. (

It was in 1662 that the colony of Virginia first tried to codify the legal definition of people whose racial pedigree was less than completely pure. To make things simple in a land in which plantation owners were already taking sexual liberties with their slaves, the lawmakers established what they called the “one-drop” rule — also known as hypodescent — declaring that any person with mixed blood who resulted from such a pairing would be assigned the race of the nonwhite parent.

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