Excerpt: “Passing” For Who You Really Are

Excerpt: "Passing" For Who You Really Are

by A.D. Powell

December 2005/January 2006

Trade Paperback, 136 pages, ISBN 0939479222, $11.95

Twelve Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness

A.D. Powell has been declared an “unsung heroine” of American history in a Proclamation by the governor of Arkansas, dated August 24, 2005!


  • The Multiracial Movement
  • Self-Identity
  • Ethnic Choice




No spokesperson of the movement to abolish government sponsorship of the “race” notion has been more eloquent than A.D. Powell. She aims her barbs at Americans of all complexions who insist upon the one-drop rule. She is the nemesis of those who advocate the uniquely American notion that there is no such thing as a White person with African ancestry—that such a person is, at best, a “light-skinned Black.” Powell believes that the one-drop rule ignores science, crushes tolerance, and mocks the American Dream. And yet it is advocated by liberals, and its enforcement is demanded by most Black leaders. She argues that coercing someone’s ethnic choice is tyranny.

This collection of essays on multiracialism originally appeared in Interracial Voice magazine.

  • I found this book to be a fascinating treatise on race and ethnicity, or more accurately our perceptions on race and ethnicity. A.D. Powell takes a stand that, in essence, argues for each human being's innate right to identify with the ethnic culture and heritage, or heritages, that he or she chooses. While this may ruffle the feathers of some, it is a common sense approach to the outdated and oftentimes harmful American tradition of assigning all people to strict racial categories (that may or may not coincide with their own view of themselves). As Wayne Winkler points out, whether you agree with her or not, A.D. Powell's Passing for Who You Really Are will make you think long and hard about our long held disjointed notions of race. — Brent Kennedy, author of The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People : An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America.
  • A. D. Powell's book of essays on the odious “one drop rule” is one of those rare works that will make you examine America’s—and your own—assumptions and attitudes about race. Whether you agree with these thoughtful pieces or not, they will make you think about some things you may have never considered before. Passing For Who You Really Are presents ideas that will stay in your mind for a long time to come. — Wayne Winkler, author of Walking Toward the Sunset: The Melungeons of Appalachia.
  • Should be required reading for “blacks,” academicians, “white” liberals and especially Latinos. — William Javier Nelson, sociologist and author of The Racial Definition Handbook.
  • I am glad someone is [publishing A.D. Powell], because there is so much crap being published by the university presses about the multiracial issue! — Francis Wardle, executive director of the Center for the Study of Biracial Children and author of the textbook Introduction to Early Childhood Education: A Multidimensional Approach to Child-Centered Care and Learning.
  • She reminds you of H.L. Menken, driving intellectual midgets into frenzies of outrage, a spectacle that entertains her fans. — Frank W. Sweet, historian and author of Legal History of the Color Line.


by Frank W. Sweet

A.D. Powell reminds you of H.L. Mencken. Like the famous columnist, she somehow drives intellectual midgets into frenzies of outrage, and the spectacle amuses and entertains her fans. It is not that what she writes is in error, or that it does not reflect factual reality�much to the contrary. Like Mencken, she writes with crystalline precision and merciless accuracy. The problem is that, like Mencken, she writes of Things Best Left Unsaid in America. Mencken once wrote:

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. The whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant. – H.L. Mencken

Unlike Mencken, who usually targeted America's political idiocies, Powell aims her barbs at liberals"White and Black"who preach the one-drop rule. She is the nemesis of those who advocate the uniquely American notion that there is no such thing as a White person with a trace of African ancestry – that such a person is, at best, a "light-skinned Black." The U.S. one-drop rule degrades reason, ignores science, crushes tolerance, outlaws ethnic choice, and mocks the American Dream. And yet it is preached as dogma by Liberals and its enforcement is demanded by Black political leaders.

Sadly, were it not for Ms. Powell and those like her, millions of well-meaning Americans would believe that, when it comes to "racial identity," it is better to lie that to tell the truth. That it is better to be a slave to manipulation than to be free. And that it is better to be ignorant than to know.

The essays in this collection were previously published in Interracial Voice, an internet-based online magazine published by Charles Byrd. Mr. Byrd graciously gave his permission for their reprinting here. With one exception, the essays are presented in the order in which they were published.

The first essay, White Racial Identity, Racial Mixture, and the One Drop Rule, is actually the one most recently written. It was a scholarly paper delivered in June 2004 at an academic conference sponsored by the Melungeon Heritage Association. It leads the collection because it is the most complete and persuasive exposition of Ms. Powell's thesis (that Americans are sadly blind to the implications of their peculiar one-drop rule).

"White," "Mixed" or "Other"? Some Books and Articles Your Librarian Didn't Tell you About! is a historians' bibliography. It is an annotated list of monographs showing that the one-drop rule is of recent origin and was virtually unknown during slavery. Five of the essays, A Political Alliance Between ALL Multiracial/Multiethnic Individuals!?, A.D. Powell vs. Marc Eisen, Harold McDougall at "Multiracial Identities & The 2000 Census" Panel, The Problem With Gregory Howard Williams, and National Public Radio Promotes the "One Drop" Myth are polemics. That is, they advocate multiracialism against those who support the one-drop notion. Although all illustrate the debate, the exchange with Marc Eisen, editor of a Wisconsin news weekly, is particularly informative. Like many Americans, the man is sincerely incapable of grasping that his insistence that Anatole Broyard was "really Black," despite appearance, despite genetics, despite Broyard's own choice of ethnicity, is in any way reprehensible. His response of ad-hominem contempt towards Ms. Powell is one of the two most common reactions to her criticism of the one-drop rule. (The other is to accuse Ms. Powell of being "secretly a Negro" and thereby a traitor to the "Black race.")

The essay White Folks: A True Story follows The Problem With Gregory Howard Williams because it shows an alternative ethnic choice. Williams chose to switch from being White to being Black in late childhood. He publicly rationalized his choice of Black ethnicity in a lucrative book that tugs all of the politically correct heartstrings. White Folks, in contrast, tells the tale of someone who switched from the Black community to the White in order to adopt an ethnicity that matched her actual genetic makeup.

Finally, the four essays: When Are Irish-Americans Not Good Enough to be Irish-American?, Pissing on the Graves of Heroes, Racial Mixture, "White" Identity, and the "Forgotten" (or Censored) Cause of the Civil War, and Are "White" Americans All "Passing as White"? are historical reviews. The first two are responses to publications that co-opted the memories of famous people and fraudulently "outed" them as secretly Black when in fact they were no more "secretly Black" than tens of millions of other White Americans. The latter two are reviews of recent historical monographs: one justifiably lauded by academia, the other unjustifiably ignored.


There are five ways to obtain a copy of the book.

  • Buy the book from Amazon by clicking here.
  • Buy it online from Barnes and Noble clicking here.
  • Buy it online from Powells Books by clicking here.
  • Order it at any bookstore (including Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Borders). It is carried by bookstore wholesaler, Ingram, and by school and library wholesaler, Baker and Taylor.
  • Download it as a digital PDF file for half-price by clicking here.

To discuss the book with the author, visit the OneDropRule discussion group.

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