Soledad O’Brien: Is She Black In Culture Or Phenotype?

Soledad O’Brien: Is She Black In Culture Or Phenotype?  


Why is Soledad O’Brien being criticized by some African Americans (blacks) for claiming that she is black — when Soledad has a black Cuban mother and white father?

Soledad ‘s is biracial, and her mother told her that she was black. So she was raised as a black person.


Soledad has a phenotype that is quadroonic, and she looks like an Italian lady or Mediterranean white. Soledad is married to a white man and has four children; all of her children look either white or white Italian looking. She says that she is raising her kids to be black. At the sametime she said she is also raising her kids to be aware that they biracial and mixed.  

Part of the problem here is the one drop rule (ODR) in America that says if you have any recent black ancestry then you are black. Soledad ‘s mother Estella is not from America , she is from Cuba . Estella is a black Cuban therefore, Hispanic/latino.


Her mother is not from the black American racial system, she is from the Latino system.

But living in America and showing visible signs of black ancestry is what got Estella labeled black.


Edward O’brien married Estella in 1958 in Washington D.C. Edward is from Australia . Ed and Estella met at church in the 1950s. Blacks have been claiming immigrants’ who aren’t even African Americans for decades if these people showed visible signs of black ancestry.


Soledad is not an African American; she is a Hispanic woman with a white Father and black Cuban mother. When she was growing up she was not seen as a black American in the eyes of the majority of whites who saw her – she was seen as white or some other non black ethnic.


So Estella and Ed O’Brien raised Soledad and her brothers and sisters to be black because that is what her mother was viewed as. On top of that Estella’s experiences in the United States was that of a black woman because Estella shows visible signs of black ancestry.


Soledad life in America has been very different from her mother’s because Soledad does not have a black phenotype (physical appearance) that shows black ancestry. Soledad ‘s life in public is that of a white woman or non black woman when people observe her phenotype.


 If she was not well know from working as a television news anchor many people would not have even guessed she was mixed with black, and would have seen her simply as a white lady, Italian, or mestiza Hispanic. So basically, she has lived blackness in culture too some degree — but not as a person who in public is seen as black, and face constant racial discrimination, and other unpleasant hassle that go along with being seen as black in appearance. If she has encountered racism for her black ancestry, the question is how did the racist know she was mixed with black?


And still those unpleasant situations in her life are not many due to her physical appearance being non black.   


This brings us to why many blacks don’t feel she is really black. They don’t feel she is really black because she does not face the same constant hassle that being visible black or visibly mixed with black brings in America . She is free to live her life without a hassle of being seen as a black woman.


Long ago before the mid 1990s it did not matter how you looked, you would get labeled black if people knew you had recent black ancestry. From 1998, 1999, and especially 2000 if you did not look mixed with black or you look like you were from another ethnic group you basic were free of the ODR, and don’t have to face the hassles that the average black person goes through.


Those who showed no visible signs of black ancestry and were seen as black before 1998, 1999, and 2000 these mixed race people also are predominantly free of the ODR (one drop rule) also. The only major discrimination Soledad and those with ambiguous phenotypes have to worry about is when people find out about their ethnic family background.


Maybe once in awhile they may encounter racism because someone might intuitively sense they are mixed with black but these situations are very few.


Therefore, because Soledad O’Brien and those like her in phenotype no longer suffer on average from the ODR — blacks see no reason to try, and force them into calling themselves black. The ODR is what keeps many mixed race looking people who show visible signs of black ancestry labeled black.


There are various reasons why blacks no longer can claim mixed people who show no visible signs of black ancestry. One of those reasons is because whites won’t let them any more. It is not because the African Americans are being generous to these people; whites won’t let them claim people who show no visible signs of black ancestry if these people don’t won’t to claim black. Whites still out number blacks in America .


Another reason is, it’s hard to recognize mixed people who look white or like some other ethnic group. There are biracials, second generational mix (one biracial parent and one monoracial parent), and multigenerational mix people who easily are seen as white or look like they belong to another race.


These people are invisible to the average black or white person’s eye.


Perfect examples are actor Wentworth Miller and actor Vin Diesel, these two have black fathers and white mothers but notice they are often referred to as either mixed race or multiracial, and when they are in society, and people don’t recognize them — they are seen as white. Blacks and whites don’t force them into blackness meaning they are not forced to self identify as black.


Golfer Tiger Woods has let it be known that he wants to be seen as biracial/mixed race because calling himself black only; he disrespects his Asian mother by not claiming Asian also.


Even though Tiger has requested to be called biracial/mixed-race/multiracial the news media from CNN, FOX news, other news websites constantly have continued to call him black or African American.


This may change in the future, and they may start calling him biracial and mixed race.


The reason they keep calling him African American and black is because Tiger’s phenotype show a lot of signs of visible black ancestry. The samething for actress Halle Berry and Singer Lenny Kravitz. Both Halle and Lenny are biracial but are seen as biracial blacks, and are called black or African American.


Halle , Lenny, and Tiger are called black because their black ancestry is way too visible in the eyes of blacks, whites, and other ethnic groups. Wherefore, Wentworth Miller, Vin Diesel, Soledad O’Brien are seen as non black because their black ancestry is not visible and they look white (Wentworth), Italian (Vin), or Hispanic ( Soledad ).  


Soledad can definitely claim black and that is her right. Soledad is not black in phenotype, but she is too some degree black in culture. But many whites and members of other ethnic groups are black in culture to some degree, and they are not called black.

So Soledad is black in a cultural sense and not a phenotypical sense.


African Americans have little interest in people who claim black — but do not on average go through many of the hassles and social discrimination that blacks go through for being black or visibly mixed with black.


So blacks aren’t denying that Soledad is not black culturally, they just have no major interest because she does not go through what they go through because she is protected by her physical appearance from most of the potential problems that visible black ancestry brings.


Soledad avoids a lot of the racial discrimination that a lot of biracials who show visible black ancestry go through. As time goes on the rules change, and for those mixed race people who show no signs of black ancestry, and can pass for another race the rule say they are free predominantly of the ODR.


And, someday the ODR will be gone totally, and regardless of your phenotype you will not be labeled black if you self identify as something else — because a new culture will be in place with new ethnic descriptors.


By the time the year 2065 arrives the ODR will have no major power among blacks or in America .  


  1. Soledad O’brien has very light brown skin but she is obviously not white. She also has kinky hair that she has to straighten and even then it doesn’t look like caucasian hair. She could not pass “back in the day” so she is black even though we know that she isn’t ALL black. NO black Americans are ALL black regardless of their skin tone or hair texture but we are still under the category of “black”..

  2. It's good to know

    She’s whiter than me. And it seems that when talking about race, its the skin color being referred to. Thats why its black, or white, or whatever. If we are talking ancestry, it’s not color oriented, as an African or Asian, etc. is purely a geographical trait. She’s unable to claim black, no matter what her ancestral heritage is, because she isn’t black. Her skin isn’t that color, or even close, and not subject to that observation objectively. And since she isn’t black, she isn’t seen as black, nor can she claim to have been subjected to such perception. She however, does create this delusion to herself that she is very much black, as say Wesley Snipes is, and under this mindset she actively looks for ‘racism’, and even if it isnt by any means- will see it everywhere because she has engraved this narrative of herself into her mindset, and its now an compulsive obsession, a very unhealthy one.

  3. Heinrich

    Im an aryian German, and very white. And she is identical in pigment color. She may have a black parent, or african ancestry, but I’ve known white Africans, and white offspring of black parents. She is white. Her heritage may be of a darker orgin, and a location normally associated with black people, but her skin is clearly not black. Honestly, I would be offended if I was black that she is claiming she is black, because she isnt seen that way and can’t relate to someone who is seen as black.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: