View Full Version : Is Halle Berry black?

Dec 1st, 2002, 04:50 AM
Black by popular demand

Bitchy comments about Halle Berry's colour show that society is still uneasy with those of mixed parentage

Tania Branigan
Thursday November 21, 2002
The Guardian

Who is black, white and red all over? Halle Berry: Oscar winner, star of the new Bond movie - and, so some have argued, downright fraud.
If critics had their way, she would be scarlet with shame. She was heralded as the first black woman to take the Academy award for best actress, yet her weeping tribute to "women of colour" was apparently a ruse - the implication being that she trades on an ethnicity to which she has at best a partial claim.

The volume of such bitchiness has been growing in the US. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter accused her of "mau-mauing her way" to the award. "It's interesting that Berry makes such a big deal about being black," she wrote, pointing out that the actor's black father abused and then left her white mother. "Clearly, Berry has calculated that it is more advantageous for her acting career to identify with the man who abandoned her rather than the woman who raised her."

Now the London Evening Standard has joined in: "Halle's no black beauty," read the headline, while the (white) journalist helpfully informed us that the star "isn't exactly black". The writer's central point - that those with cafe-au-lait skin fare better in Hollywood than their darker sisters - is unquestionably true.

But by her criterion, half of black culture's most prominent figures are guilty of imposture, from Ms Dynamite to Frederic Douglass, Paul Boateng to Billie Holiday, and Langston Hughes to Louis Farrakhan. Each black; each with one white parent. Black by choice, but also by demand.

We still have mixed feelings about mixing races. Once it both enthralled and appalled us; now we pretend it does not exist. Berry, Boateng, Farrakhan et al are discussed as if they were of wholly black parentage, even - confusingly - where white mothers or fathers get a passing mention. This wilful blindness reflects cultural anxiety. In the past, white fears of "contamination" were so potent that miscegenation was a subject of endless fascination.

Now that we're supposed to be living in a happy rainbow universe, we avoid the topic altogether. To recognise the existence of mixed-race families more openly would be to admit the possibility of a genuinely diverse society, where people of different cultures live together rather than side by side. If the far right see that as their worst nightmare, the rest of us should admit that it remains a dream. We claim to like difference, but on the whole we prefer it at a safe distance.

Berry's critics are attacking her for a choice she never made. Imagine the reaction if she had dared to describe herself as white. She would, presumably, be in denial. How perverse! How terrible! Authors and filmmakers used to adore the theme of light-skinned mulattoes who "passed themselves off" to avoid prejudice. To black writers it was understandable but tragic. To their white counterparts it was often disturbing, provocative or plain uppity. Either way, the message was clear: it was bound to end in disaster. Suicide was a likely fate; at the very best you could hope for exposure, or guilt.

To claim to be white was to deny your true self; "a drop of midnight" outweighed pints of "white" blood in your veins. Our ancestors catalogued each tiny variation: their categories went as far as octoroon, someone who was one-eighth "negro" (and not, as you might think, seven-eighths white). Mixed-race children learned to embrace the identity once foisted on them. Treated as black, they became black - and proud - identifying with the family most likely to welcome them. Now, it appears, half black is Not Black Enough - not even to whitey. So they are frauds if they pass as black people, too, though none denies white parentage. No wonder Berry sounds so weary of the subject: "No person in my whole life has ever thought that I was white," she told Movieline magazine.

Having "passed" as both white and Asian - usually because of others' assumptions rather than by choice - I could be seen as a full-time fraud. My eyes are not round enough for one; my skin is too light for the other. But identities need not be exclusive and I refuse to accept the racist premise that my white inheritance is insignificant. I am proud of both sides of my family, and know that both have shaped me. I see myself as British Asian, but I am also what I look: mixed race.

And I am one of a growing number. More than one in 20 under-fives has mixed parentage; last year, the term made its first appearance on the census form. In truth, of course, everyone is mixed race: there is no such thing as the ethnic purity the far right seeks to preserve. But as long as race remains an issue, "mixed race" will be a category as valid as black or Asian - albeit a category with a large span and imprecise borders. Where cultures bleed into each other there are always unique strengths as well as tensions. We share, explore and, most importantly, develop in new ways.

A mixed-race identity is no less plausible than a black British or British Asian one. And no less valuable.


~ The Leopard ~
Dec 1st, 2002, 04:52 AM
Hey, inneresting article.

Dec 1st, 2002, 05:05 AM
tupaclover - thanks for a great article. :)

Ann Coulter is a clown. She's a caricature.

The writer makes some excellent points. The fact is, the world is becoming more and more racially and culturally mixed. Hopefully, people will get over their intolerance.

I'm hoping Halle wins another Oscar next year.

Dec 1st, 2002, 05:30 AM
LOL@Ann Coulter!
I really like Halle. She proves we are all more alike than we are different, Halle-luah!

Dawn Marie
Dec 1st, 2002, 05:30 AM
No Halle is not black nor is she white. Society is not about black and white regardless of what people or ROBOTS would like to believe, there is plenty of grey in between.:)

She's a women of color just like Mariah.

Dec 1st, 2002, 05:34 AM
Halle is BOTH blackand white! Society makes mixed raced people choose one or the other, and in HB's case she identifies as black.

Dec 1st, 2002, 06:53 AM
I will report back after closer examination.

Gonzo Hates Me!
Dec 1st, 2002, 06:54 AM
She's black in that if you saw her for the first time and knew nothing about her background, you wouldn't guess she was mixed. Same with James Blake. They're seen in society as black people. So hmph

Dec 1st, 2002, 07:03 AM
tupaclover, Halle certainly isn't white. She's delightfully black.

Dawn Marie
Dec 1st, 2002, 07:57 AM
Society has never made me choose white or black. I've always chosen both. James and Halle easily looked mixed at first,second,third glance to me. Society and Halle can say she's black all she/they want to but her white mom gave birth to her and that's a fact. Half of that blood is from a White person so Halle can't be all black. White society cracks me up cause they try to make people think that if they have one iota of a speck of black blood that they have to be considered black or shall I say no sign of white. Personally though if I had to be one or the other I would pick black cause I think black skin and the culture is beautiful. That's why I identify more with Black culture. :):)

Dec 1st, 2002, 08:06 AM
She´s both ... black and white!

Dec 1st, 2002, 09:35 AM
I've been in many an argument about this very thing, whether it's Halle Berry or Tiger Woods or whomever. It doesn't matter what society says, if BOTH your parents are not of the same race, then YOU, my friend, are not ONE race. You can pick and chose all you want, but the truth of the matter is you are bi-racial. I don't know why some people still hang on to the belief that you're Black if one of your parents are. Well, what the hell happens to the heritage on the other parent's side? Do you just disinherit that? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We're not talking about mere social acceptance here. We're talking about heritage and culture and identity, whether you own up to it or not.

nasty nick#2
Dec 1st, 2002, 10:24 AM
She's white and black, that's about it ;) Be proud of your heritage.

Dec 1st, 2002, 11:24 AM
I still say she's delightfully black. I understand that some people see her as "mixed". But most black people in North America are mixed in some degree or another.

Dec 1st, 2002, 01:57 PM
*sigh* i don't think it's matter whether she's black or white!! as long as she's beautiful and good at acting.

Dec 2nd, 2002, 01:51 AM
It seems like this only comes up when you are talking about being mixed black and white. If someone is mixed black and Spanish or black and Asian, they are automatically considered black. But as someone said before, we are all mixed with something.

Dec 2nd, 2002, 02:17 AM
lenny kravtiz and james blake and alex stevenson are in the same boat. i wonder that they would say about this

Dawn Marie
Dec 2nd, 2002, 03:09 AM
Knowing my mom is white skinned and that I came from her womb makes it easy for me to know what my heritage is. Sure some people of color are mixed with something or another and if they wish to feel they are black then so be it. I on the other-hand know that I am both black and white. If your mom is white you're not all black it's as simple as that. Halle and the like can want to be 100% black all they wish to be but they are not. Mixed people have got to stop thinking of the past and just except who they are. Hell people who have both color parents need to stop the sterotypes of the past. I feel it is okay to have interracial parents and claim them both. Infact that is what one should do just say you're both. It's so simple. There DOES NOT HAVE TO AN EITHER OR AN OR. It is what it is. Halle though feels she is black in the soul and I quite understand that very much so infact. As far as her heritage and background go though, sorry to say it but she is mixed with both. Some mixed people feel their soul is white, they identify more with the heritage of their caucasion parent. (crazy as hell imho) but either way the person who claims their white heritage as their skintone still in my eyes is mixed with both. Halle though probably identifies with the black culture and realizes she is mixed with both parents, but claims she is black because that is the way society says to do it. Since I can remember I always stated to whoever asked me that I was mixed. I always checked both circles on school forms as well ever since I can remember. Hell I use to argue with them fools. When they would tell me to check JUST ONE. Puhleese. I was in 4th grade and I had no choice cause the system didn't give me one at that time. Things changed later on, thank god! Anyway I circled in black because to be honest I wanted the people who read the froms to associate me with black before white. I just couldn't picture myself as being all white. Probably cause I indentified with part of my culture(the black culture) more so then the white side.

Joy, you brought up some great points that is why Carol Channing just came out and admitted she is indeed part black.

I still don't consider the Oscars as having a black women winning . Until Angela Bassett or Cisley Tyson run up and give a speech I will still be waiting. Not to say that I didn't shed a tear for Halle. The kid deserved it. She was outstanding in Monster's Ball.:):)

the cat
Dec 2nd, 2002, 03:33 AM
It's too bad Halle Berry has to put up with all of this! :( Why can't people just be happy for her success and in becoming the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Academy Award?

Dawn Marie, I now understand your points of view about life and color a little better. I didn't know before tonight about your background. Excellent posts Dawn! Very thoughtful! :D Especially the part about you checking both circles in the fourth grade! Your strong will was already developing back then! :)

Dec 2nd, 2002, 05:09 AM
I think one does identify with one ethnicity more than another. I know I do. I identify with my father's side of the family. Perhaps that is because there was a stronger ethnic tie on that side than on my mother's. So if people want to know my ethnic background, I tell them only that part. And I look that way too so it fits better.

Halle gentically probably has more european genes than african genes, but that's not what makes somebody black or white. I knew a woman once who was lighter than a lot of white women and her hair was lighter too. But she identified herself as black. I don't think that was because it was easier for her to get jobs etc. as that article implies. lol... no... Her whole extended family was mixed. Some had very dark skin, and others had skin lighter than hers, but they all chose their family because that is where the ties were strong.

The preoccupation with race in the U.S. is part of the price we all pay for slavery... it is an insidious evil that we have never really faced with honesty and truthfulness.

Still Abraham Lincoln's great refutation of William Douglas rings in my ears. ... If a negro be not a man....

We are all just people trying to get along. The fear and hatred of one another does not serve the people. It serves the masters. If poor, downtrodden people in this nation, regardless of color, would unite and all demand to be treated with fairness and respect with the basic human dignity of health care, housing, and care for children, would the masters of commerce, those who line their pockets the obscene millions be able to continue their control of the political realm necessary for their greed to continue?

I think not. The division between people of color and those of european descent, is only something to blind us all to our true interests. Dividing the masses has worked quite nicely in this country.

Dawn Marie
Dec 2nd, 2002, 06:00 AM
You know if one were to really get deep just think of this little tid bit.

We're all born just alike all the same way we all have the same blood running through our veins. No"BODY" says they are black,white,red or mixed at birth. Were all colorblind. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could stay that way?

Dec 2nd, 2002, 08:41 AM
Dawn, I agree. I think it was God's intention for us to stay that way, but Eve ran off and bit that damn apple, and we were all shot to hell from there. :angel:

Helen Lawson
Dec 2nd, 2002, 02:12 PM
She cannot play a character who needs to be white. She can play a character who needs to be Black. She can play a character where it does not matter. Therefore she is Black.

Dec 2nd, 2002, 02:25 PM
Excellent posts everyone!
Dawn Marie, kudos for knowing who you are at such an early age.
Starr-you are absolutely right! Our preoccupation with color goes back to slavery when white slave owners made babies with black slave women and then abandoned them. Black people have always raised children who were "biracial".

So, Carol Channing admits to being black NOW!?! Please... I guess it's hip to be ethnic these days. But there are probably lots of people in Hollywood who are "passing". I can think of a few.