Halle Berry's ex: 'Don't call my daughter black' – and other color-aroused assumptions

This man has issues. According to TMZ, Gabriel Aubry, the former husband of Acadamy Award-winning actress Halle Berry, apparently believes in wishful thinking and a utopian world.

Sources connected with the former couple tell TMZ … whenever Gabriel would read a story about Nahla that referred to her as “black,” he would go off, insisting his baby was white. We’re told Gabriel would tell Halle and others they should demand a “retraction” when such references were made regarding his daughter.

As TMZ previously reported, sources tell us Gabriel has called Halle the “N” word — and one woman previously involved with him referred to him as a “borderline racist.”

Bwahahahaha — please someone explain to me what is a “borderline” racist? Nevermind. The word racist has become so toxic that people now invent euphemistic precursors. To be an actual racist, perhaps one has to be a member of the KKK or Stormfront, or the men who tied James Byrd to the back of a truck and dragged him to death.

Anyway, as the racial melting pot continues to fill, with more and more kids born to parents who are themselves mixed race (Berry has a white mother and black father), the issue of what these blend-o-licious children will identify as is an interesting matter for Americans to adjust to. Obviously, Gabriel Aubry’s vigorous denial of his own little girl’s heritage is disturbing, reflecting his own judgment that black=bad.

Halle Berry’s own take, via Wikipedia:

“After having many talks with my mother about the issue, she reinforced what she had always taught me. She said that even though you are half black and half white, you will be discriminated against in this country as a black person. People will not know when they see you that you have a white mother unless you wear a sign on your forehead. And, even if they did, so many people believe that if you have an ounce of black blood in you then you are black. So, therefore, I decided to let folks categorize me however they needed to.”


Blackness is a state of mind and I identify with the black community. Mainly, because I realized, early on, when I walk into a room, people see a black woman, they don’t see a white women. So out of that reason alone, I identify more with the black community.

Her statement reflects the reality in this country in 2011 to a large degree, since one has to identify as something for, say, the census.

Now, self-identification as a second-generation mixed-race person, as her daughter is, will be interesting. Leaving out her father’s negative influence regarding race, could she choose to say she’s white? How many generations of mixing out the negro does it take to become “white”? Does successive generational procreations of white to any other brown/red/yellow person eventually produce a white person?

It’s kind of maddening, but there’s only cultural history to rely on; science is irrelevant, and self-identification when the lines are visually blurry is, as Berry intimates, the last word on what you are seen as.

There are plenty of photos of the couple and their child online. I look at this photo of their baby, and I see a child of color; I’m not sure of what ethnicity, but certainly she doesn’t appear to be white. She could, however, be biracial, or the child of two biracial parents, or, quite frankly, the child of two black parents (gee, what a concept!).

I’ve seen views on racial identification change over time. I know that no one ever questioned whether I was black when I was growing up in North Carolina in the 60s-70s. When I moved to NYC in the mid-70s, it was a much more diverse population than the black/white paradigm in NC at the time, and in NY I was often mistaken as Puerto Rican (I had my hair relaxed back in the day). That’s what some people saw.

More below the fold.My family on both sides haven’t any white parentage going back a long way, but some of my relatives could pass for something else (and they knew other people at the time in their neighborhood who did); they chose to identify as black.

What others see, for right or wrong, really determines who you are. Ask our biracial President if he sees himself as anything other than black in this society. I think we saw enough of the toxic, racist McCain/Palin supporters in 2008 to confirm how a good slice of America felt about background — and feared it.

I discussed another irony of racial classification last year that’s relevant.

Another oddity of the census, something that my wife Kate, who is Lebanese and white has noticed, is why those of Arab descent are officially counted as “white,” unless the self-identify otherwise. This clearly this seems bizarre, given many Lebanese-Americans are darker than I am, and certainly the KKK wouldn’t classify them as white either, but when it comes to race, so much doesn’t make sense. The history behind it.:

Among the great ironies of Arab life in the US is that Arabs and other Middle Easterners are legally white in the eyes of government categorization. The reasons for this are complicated; basically, first wave Syrian/Lebanese Christian immigrants who arrived as part of the great wave of Southern and Eastern European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century successfully lobbied to be considered white under naturalization law, which only allowed for free white persons to become US citizens. (This was during the period of the Asian Exclusion Act; not a good time to be ambivalently white.) Because the folks in question were Christian, phenotypically no darker than other European immigrants of the time, and generally working their way into the middle class, their petition to become white folks was accepted. Fast forward seventy years to the 1990s. Arabs and Muslims are highly stigmatized in pop culture and politics: they’re the terrorist bad guys in every movie, their campaign contributions get returned, their political opinions go unheard. Classifying Arab Americans as white, and leaving them ineligible for protection and benefits under federal guidelines, seems vaguely insulting in this context. Worse, for scholars of the community, this means that information on Arab ancestry was only collected on the long form, which structurally undercounts small groups like Arab Americans. (This year, in fact, the long form has been eliminated entirely.) This is when the campaign to add an ‘Arab’ or ‘Middle Eastern’ origin question, parallel to the Hispanic origin question, began.

It’s also noted that many people read: Arab = Muslim, which is of course, ludicrous. Many Arabs are Christian, and many Muslims are white. Kate’s family happens to be Maronite Catholic. It seems a huge detriment that the census doesn’t break some of these numbers down so that we get a more accurate picture of the browning and seasoning of our country over time — and how they perceive themselves racially.

When I compare my heritage to that of Obama’s, I often wonder how being officially identified as biracial is perceived in this country today in comparison to someone who is a fair-skinned black who is not biracial. When you start breaking it down like this it all begins to sound absurd, but the political reality is that claiming your racial identity, one way or the other, has social consequences, a fork in the road, as it were, because other people want to be able to put you in a box they can easily identify.

So while it’s easy to toss off Gabriel Aubry’s defensive racial posturing as ignorant, racist or both, it does open the door to discussions about racial self-identification as the country continues to brown. Or is it blending into a variety of shades that are harder to identify and classify? As human beings we like to organize things in our mind in those tidy boxes and we’re running out of boxes — or at least running out of ways to label them and are uncomfortable with those labels.

Check out the post by Monica Roberts, Um Gabriel, Your Daughter’s Black:

We are not even close to being a post-racial society as much as people would wish it to be so. The election of our biracial president who white Americans long ago let know they didn’t consider him anything but Black and have treated him that way since November 4, 2008.

But those same white Americans had a cow when he checked off African-American only on his census form.

So Gabriel, get used to something we call the ‘one drop rule’ and get used to your daughter for the rest of her life being considered a Black woman.


* Here we go – now I’m a ‘half-breed’ for criticizing the admin

* CNN does Black in America 101

* The browning of Top 10 surnames

* Bigoted Louisiana Justice of the Peace: ‘I’m not racist, I let blacks use my bathroom’

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