Is Halle Berry’s daughter black?

The world of science has on several occasions declared that race is biologically meaningless, but yet accepting this idea as general knowledge seems curiously hard to accomplish.

The sooner we can understand the fallacious construct of race, the sooner we might begin to speak about multi-racialism with the kind of sensible thinking that it requires.

However, the prospects for that remain remote. The issue of whether a biracial individual should deny or embrace their other half began in 1937 when Everett Stonequist wrote his famous work ‘The Marginal Man’ (thanks for that!). Recent events proved that we have not made much progress; biracial people are still an uncomfortable thorn in the side of the social experiment called race. Following actress Halle Berry’s declaration that her daughter is black in Ebony magazine last week, people got very emotional and all these articles about biracialism surfaced. Such as Sonia Poulton’s moving but naïve piece, which again referred to dated racial terminology such as DNA and white inheritance when debating biracialism. The one drop rule was up for discussion, US journalist John McWhorter wrote in Let’s Stop Being Angry at Biracial People that black people inflict a sort of reverse racism on mixed race people by forcing them to label themselves black. Bene Viera responded to this with an article in Clutch Magazine asking that mixed race people Stop Bringing the Biracial Issue to the Doorsteps of Blacks. Again they all approached race as though a biological fact, thus resulting in a segregating conclusion.

Maybe this is as good a time as ever to say that in accordance with president Obama, Berry and countless other mixed race people I refer to myself (amongst other labels) as black. I do so even though my genetic make up is European and African, Finnish and Nigerian to be precise. The reason I am black is not unclear to me in any manner. I appreciate that although flawed, the theory of racial difference is one that continues and in all likeliness, will continue to shape society for a while. Secondly, people like myself have the same history as any other black person. We were slaves, oppressed and colonized in the same fashion and on the same grounds. Third, and most importantly, it’s one out of many cultural labels that I’m able to identify with.

The only cultural racial label, which applies to me but that I can’t claim to have experienced, is the one of ‘white’. This is not due to my denying my whiteness as some accuse Halle Berry of doing; rather it is a result of how society is constructed. If you don’t believe me, try stepping into my shoes at a western airport and watching all the white people with the same passport as I have, waltz past you as you get stopped and possibly detained. Or, if you want hard evidence there’s the study conducted at Harvard University, which found “that individuals who were a 50-50 mix of two races, either black-white, Asian-white etc, were almost never identified by study participants as white.”

It’s sad somehow, but I have to live with the fact that it would feel absolutely farcical for me to see myself as white.

The topic of ‘mixed race’ and the ‘one drop rule’ can bring out the worst in people and understandably so; we are seen as a problematic group. Whereas we previously were problematic because we were considered a hindrance to ‘white purity’, now we are the elephant in the room called ‘post-racialism’, arguably also a white construct. Black patriots often see us as a challenge too; are we traitors to our ‘race’ or compatriots?

Whether Berry’s daughter Nahla will choose to label herself white, black or biracial, people in a rigidly aligned world will want her to choose. My perception of the world is not rigid, nor aligned, and in my opinion and depending on her surroundings Nahla can identify herself as all three, simply because she is all three.


  • Anon

    Great article. However, technically how would Nahla be identified as biracial when she actually isn’t. Does this stem from how her biracial mother identifies herself? Just another angle to think about

  • Vickii

    First of all, may I commend you on a great choice of photograph ;p

    I was a bit disappointed in Halle Berry’s determined labelling of her daughter. I believe her reasoning was “I’m her mother and I’m black so my daughter is black”. I don’t think I’d be particularly happy if either of my parents tried to label me in this way (not to mention the problems it would cause seeing as one of them is ‘white’ and the other is ‘black’). It’s Nahla’s choice when she is old enough to understand and make the choice for herself.

  • Roschelle

    great article. love love love it. unfortunately it’s not nahla’s choice. just as it has not been your choice. as you pointed out, it’s society. you are just as finnish as you are nigerian. but to the naked eye…. to the world…. to this colorstruck society…. you’re a black woman.

    i’m sure it’s far easier to identify with a group that accepts you than one that doesn’t.

    nahla’s situation is slightly different. she’s not biracial. she’s multiracial. whatever the hell that means. and once she reaches the point on life where she decides to choose a mate…. if the man is black…. here we go again. if the man is white… maybe not so much.

    it’s all really frustrating

  • George Dickson

    It was a very odd argument from the word go.

    The main thing is the cultural influence Halle thinks the child will benefit from by being classified as black. the real question is socially, does she have the power and connections for her to give Nahla the benefits of “black” life? Being black is only a way of life and strengths lies in spiritual levels.
    maybe if she was directly african/ carribean then maybe there could be some substance behind that but general “commercial” blackness is not something she should fight for unless she has a plan and actually knows how to nurture that “blackness”.

    From what i understand she even weeded out the white guy in the first place only for his own genetic makeup so why is she now complaining.

    Worst part of it is that she’s ended a single mother which after all that time waiting for the right man and all that beauty is just a waste.

    • MsAfropolitan

      hi George,
      her beauty is not to waste , from what I see she is still one Hollywood’s top actresses, still beautiful, still a proud mother and still incredibly wealthy. There is nothing wrong with being a single mother if that’s what life serves you, it isn’t a catastrophe

  • TaD

    Well written and incredibly succinct. Halle called her daughter black because no matter how much white blood she might have, in America she will always be black. Ironic considering that the little girl is actually only 25% black.

    Ultimately she’s just a very blessed little girl, no matter what labels people choose to apply to her.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Co-signing on your last point.

  • Z.

    hello from a fellow West African/European mix. I came across your blog via Afri-love and it’s been great to read you so far!

    The amount of articles that have cropped up in the last week on this is pretty ridiculous! There was also this one,’Tragic Mulatto’, which really got my goat:

    I was raised in the Middle-East, educated at a French Lycee, and have spent the last 7.5 years living in the United Kingdom. As such, I do not subscribe to the American labeling of race, nor do I buy into the notion that I am bound by the shackles of a society as shaped by racial difference. The U.S. has a very unique perception of race, and concepts such as the ‘one drop’ rule are indeed rooted in North American history and, as such, shouldn’t be projected onto every other Black or mixed-race individual in the rest of the world.

    As it stands, if I were to see myself as society has perceived me to date, I would be thoroughly confused- this past year alone I have heard that I look like I am from India, Cambodia, Morocco, Brazil, Egypt, Nepal, and many other countries which have nothing to do with my gene pool or cultural identity.

    I understand how and why Pan-Africanism came about, including the need for a Black/African identity, but I find it pretty frustrating that we are still using imperialist and colonial terms/definitions to build our own identity. I also feel that lumping many cultural identities into one group does them a disservice somewhat.

    Africa is mixed and has been for centuries with Indian, Portuguese, French, Arab influences. I think it is time to go beyond- yes, I am Black African, but more than that I am Fulani. I am Mauritanian with Senegalese roots. Like I said, race and Africanism hold many different meanings the world over, way beyond the US- look at Brazil, places such as Sudan, etc…

    I’ll stop here, guess I had a lot to say on the subject. But to those who have an issue with me using the term ‘mixed’/multicultural as opposed to the more straightforward ‘Black’, all I have to say is: ‘definitions belong to the definers not to the defined’.

    • Z.

      p.s. If that was unclear, I agree with you in thinking that Nahla should be able to identify with all 3! I also wonder whether Halle would feel the same way if Nahla didn’t look like she was part black (as I’ve noticed that many 75% white, 25% black children with the same genetic make-up as Nahla look fully white).

      • MsAfropolitan

        That’s the farcical thing about race, that despite claiming to be some sort of biological truth at the end of the day it seems more about ones appearance than ones background.

    • Jeanetttes daughter

      Wrong! Not all of what you say, but the “concept of one drop” is not rooted in the USA. Read Nell Irvin Painter’s brilliant critical race theory, “The History of White People.” The phrase may have been invented in the Americas but the white supremacy concepts come straight out of European culture, art and science. Racism was not invented in the Americas, nor perfected in the Americas. Had it been, all those Roma peoples (gypsy) and all those European Jews would not have been murdered in the name of preserving an allegedly superior racial type of human being.

  • POTO

    Personally, I don’t think African Americans came up with the one drop rule. African American people may be subjected to the one drop rule each time they apply for a job. In any event, society seems not to care as much if you call yourself black. But if you try calling yourself remotely close to white, mostly it’s the institutions that will attack you. I think it is these foolish institutions that came up with the one drop rule. Should they just replace the word black with the word ‘exotic’ or something? Is that what colonial institutions meant by black? As far as Halle Barry’s Daughter is concerned, I am sure that she will be fine as long as she knows her history, and is not forced to memorize a history that does not pertain to her background. I think she should be allowed to explore and find her place in the world.

    • POTO

      p.s. if the European system does not provide education on what it means to be a Queen, well, she will have to learn from some of the ruins in Egypt and probably other parts of Asia. This education is obviously hard to come by today. Thank God Africans documented this extensively!

  • lookadeez

    “race” has to go… it’s such a simple thing to debunk, yet it stays around. And the fact that it does, says so much more about all kinds of bullshit that we adhere to. SMH. We shall evolve eventually, one hopes.

    • MsAfropolitan


  • Emma Knight

    Thank you for this article. I too have been mesmerized by the recent comments around the “Berry” effect. I have read articles and comments for a week, as if watching a train wreck. I am honestly confused by all of the hoopla. For me it is crystal clear…I am not a white woman, I will never be a white woman. That is it…you are white or not-white all of this in-between stuff and percentages is doing my head in. There are many interesting combinations of people out there. It is exciting, evidence of love conquering all. I love my white parent, I am not unhappy about my mixed ancestry. It has given me great insight and challenging hurtles. It has defined me…could not imagine it any other way. I am not angry, I am proud…but I am not white. I have lived all over the world and racism is different all over, defiantly a social construct. But the most persistent, widespread and damaging aspect if racism is the universal discrimination between white and not-white, everything else is a good story about splitting hairs.

    • Z.

      Emma Knight, I do not disagree with you on your definition of racism (universal discrimination against non-white people) but I am curious as to what defines people as ‘white’? Is it looks only? Because there are many people who are non-white when it comes to their heritage (i.e. who have a blatantly non-white parent), but who physically come across as being white, which is why I mentioned the percentages and ‘in between stuff’. If such ‘people of colour’ are treated by society as being white, then isn’t there a bit more to it?

      • Tee-La

        Unfortunately being white is about looking white until/unless someone discovers otherwise. People are willing to accept you as white if you look as such (not an easy feat mind you – as Western societies seem to sniff a drop of ‘non-white’ blood from a mile off), however the moment it comes to light that you are mixed race your ‘label’ changes.
        I agree that the concept of either being black whether you’re 100% or 10% black is very American but let’s be clear in Europe (UK included), we talk about mixed race or bi-racial but essentially people are viewed as white, black or Asian. Mixed race is simply a label which doesn’t carry with it any additional privileges so perhaps the frankness of American society is easier to deal with.

        • Z.

          That hasn’t been my experience in UK, I do feel I have had ‘additional privileges’ by having a white mother that I would not have had with two black parents.

          anyhow, it seems like an impossible thing to argue/discuss in a way, as individual experiences will be different. I’ll go with Anais Nin’s, ‘we do not see things as they are, we see things as we are’- for my perspective of this situation at least! unfortunately, the whole of Europe seems to be getting more close-minded/extreme when it comes to minorities.

          thanks for the discussion.

  • Jake

    This issue brings to light the most fundamental problem with ‘racial identity’ in the United States. Basically, people treat it as if its something that can be shaped. Halle talks about ‘feeling’ and ‘believing,’ but the issue is that race or ethnicity simply is, it doesn’t depend on what people feel or believe in. For this reason, the issue with multiracial people is not whether they ‘feel’ or ‘believe’ to be one race or another; their ‘race’ was decided on the day they were conceived and is guarded in their DNA, regardless what they or anyone else ‘feels,’ ‘believes,’ or thinks about this. The real issue here is whether she (and all multiracial people) have enough love, respect and dignity to accept themselves for what they truly are or to continue living in denial. Denying one part of your ancestry is a total disgrace. I’m multiracial and perfectly content with myself.

    Also, the One-Drop-Rule (ODR) is the most stupid concept to have ever been invented. Back in slavery/segregation days, blacks and biracial people were considered 3/5th human. Why don’t I hear anyone (black or otherwise) claiming that African Americans are only 3/5th humans because ‘back in slavery time’ that how it was? So why do people insist on the stupid ODR, using the ‘back in slavery’ nonsense as its defense? The ODR is stupidity at its finest.

  • exotiq

    I agree with your point exactly. As a multiracial myself, with a white parent as well as a black parent, I feel as though I would be lying about my true identity if I were to simply say “I’m just Black”…Of course, whenever someone repeats this, I usually read a follow-up reply such as; “Well, you can’t be White either” or “White’s will never accept you”…etc.

    It’s like it’s implied that when I say I’m not comfortable saying that I’m not ‘just black,’ that it must mean then, that I’m saying that I want to be white…Why? Because I said I wasn’t ‘just black’? …So of course, you figure that “Well, if she ain’t sayin’ she black, she must be tryin’ to be white”…or something like that, right?! ….Well, guess what….WRONG!!!!

    ….Just because I don’t want to go around faking myself out to be some full-time ‘soul sistah’, don’t mean that I wanna be a “white gurl” neither! …I don’t feel comfortable saying that I’m white neither! ….Even though, I’ve passed all my life so far….BUT…I insist on setting everyone who asks straight…I’m mixed…I’m half black/half white….I’m biracial…mulatto…Whatever the popular phrase is this year! …That’s the fact jack!….Don’t like it, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I ain’t no one’s puppet! I’m ME…and I’m goin’ stay me! :)

    …Besides…DNA don’t lie…So why should I????

  • Georgina

    I do not necessarily agree with Halle’s decision to label her daughter as black but to some degree I can understand it, she may be just 1/4 black but in appearance she could pass as a 50/50 mix, and as we all know many a mixed raced person classify themselves or are classified by society as black by no means am i saying this is right however it is something that happens. so maybe Halle believes she is giving her daughter the identity she feels in later years society will label her regardless of what she actually is, hoping that her daughter will embrace the part of her ethnicity that is black as opposed to having society use it as a negative. I have noticed that a lot of people will readily see some one who is 3/4 white as white or mixed depending on skin tone, but see some one who is 3/4 black as just being black. so maybe halle’s intention is not to deny the child her real racial identity but to embrace the part of her that she may feel will be overlooked and treated as a negative, that does not mean she’s going about the right way though.

    • exotiq

      I see what you’re saying but regardless of what your racial mix, people will identify you as how you appear. You’re right, being 3/4 white can leave you looking like a 50/50 mix, but that would certainly confuse the issue that much more to say that you’re “just black” because I’m almost certain that you won’t look “just black”.

      Studies have shown that a mixed-race child will be more ‘mentally healthy’ if they are not lying to the world about their racial makeup by only choosing one side of their racial identity. This is the reason you have those ‘tragic mulatto’ stories because of society not allowing them to be who they are–because they are being forced to choose a side, when they may or may not feel ‘whole’ as a person because of it. A mono-racial can’t possibly understand what it feels like not to feel ‘whole’ because they are one race and can identify only as that, without any reservation.

      Which is more of a reason why it is important to identify as you truly are…if you’re mulatto or biracial, you should say so. I am mulatto and I say so, not just because I am, but because I look that way…I don’t look white despite my pale olive complexion and Euro-centric features, and I don’t look black despite my ‘biracial’ hair. I look ‘Hispanic’ to most people who meet me for the first time. Luckily for me, I also happen to be “Hispanic” since my family is of Catholic Latin/Caribbean descent, from a Latin/Caribbean country, raised in the culture as well…and not to mention my Latin surname, so in my case, the guessing isn’t so hard.

      Most white & black people see me as a Latin American immigrant, because that is what I am and my son is 3/4 white because of his white father and he looks Hispanic, just as I do and many members of my family. No..We don’t look exclusively black, but we don’t look white either, and this is fine. We don’t concern ourselves with whites nor blacks in general. The Latin Caribbean culture is multiracial so we don’t distinguish between races.

      But I will admit, there are times when I’ll occasionally meet an African American person (for some reason, it’s always an African American person) who might “detect” a tinge of African ancestry within me and seem to relish in the idea of ‘calling me on it’…Leaving me with the need to explain my racial makeup and of course the typical ‘accusations’ ensue of how “I’m ashamed of my black side” or “I lack ‘blackness’,” and on and on….(And then they wonder why I don’t embrace their culture with such welcoming receptions such as those)…I always feel the need to explain that I wasn’t born in the USA and being and feeling Latin doesn’t allow me to fall for such ignorance as the ODR, and because of MY CULTURE, I don’t feel the need to embrace the African American culture when I wasn’t born or raised in it—(This is an example of how America is such a racist country when their own blacks try to bully others (with any amount of African DNA, regardless of what country they came from) into assimilating into the “African American” culture–If that’s not self-centered and one-sided, I don’t know what is!)

      Bottom line, people need to stop following the ignorance and show that they are indeed intelligent by not allowing themselves to follow ignorance like dumb cattle following the herd to slaughter. It’s sad to see how ignorance is more abundant than intelligence–another example of our failed educational system!

      • Georgina

        In an ideal world the child should be identified as what she really is which is a mixture of both races, and I have to say I am curious as to weather or not Halle would readily label her daughter black if she visibly appeared more white in complexion. I my self am not what most would call mixed however my mother is multi racial ( i think that’s what their calling it these days) as a result my eldest daughter is often mistaken for being mixed race Chinese / black, she looks like my mum who is a mix of Chinese,white, Syrian, and black, my father is black my daughters father is black, but because my child favours my mother especially the eyes skin tone and hair texture I am constantly being asked if her father is Chinese, I have even had oriental people presume she is half on a regular basis.I (look more black my sister looks more Asian) which goes back to my point of no matter what you are society will judge you on what you look like.
        and maybe Halle is considering that fact, would the world be in up roar if the obama’s choose to label their girls as black? or if nicole richie decide to label herself as white? in fact does society consider the obama kids a mixed? as in may forums they are referred to as black
        And also when does mixed stop being mixed? I personally think the race system is inadequate while i do understand that a lot of mixed people do not want to be classed as just being from one race and want an identity of their own im not sure the labels mixed bi or multi racial cover it,simple because there are so many different types of mixes one could argue that to label everyone with a mix a simple mixed raced is to take away from their identity rather than giving them one.I think the way forward is to do away with racial categorising altogether, we are all one race cos I for one know my mum didnt lay down with no dog or cat to make me, people do not need to be catigorised by ‘race’ ask me my heritage and i will tell you what makes me, (jamaican black, Jamaican syrian, scottish and chinese) like my jamaican motto says “OUT OF MANY ONE PEOPLE” ask me my nationality and i’ll tell you british, ask me my race HUMAN PERIOD!!!

  • Jana

    As long as people like Halle Berry keep racists theories alive that were created by racist white southerners from the slave days we will never be rid of Prejudice. Halle is a bitter bitter woman. She never got over the experiences of her childhood. She was told by her own white mother that the world will only see you as black. Of course Halle was born in the sixties when racism was in full swing and I guess it is hard to erase these experiences from our minds. But we are in a better society today where blacks have more prominence than the 60’s. Although, racism still exists I think the newer generations mix better now and we are all becoming accepted as a nation that is a melting pot of ethnicities. Halle should not poison her daughter’s mind with white southerners decision to claim every one with a 1% and more black blood as full black. I also think she wants to destroy the relationship with Gabrie Aubrey (father) and his daughter.

  • Jana

    Halle is raising her daughter to hate the white side of herself. It is very disturbing when a mother pushes her own racists views onto her child. When you are mixed race or nationality and you only count one then you are prejudice to yourself and your ancestors. How sad. I have seen white people say I am half Italian and half Poish and only consider myself Italian. That statement is prejudice to your ancestors of the Polish nationaltiy. That is why prejudice is not just a white and black issue. My mother’s Irish side did not accept my mother’s French Canadian side and looked down on them. That is prejudice. It is a sad fact of life.

  • Dominic

    I’m a white male and the father of a mixed race five year old boy. This idea about racial identity has been especially pertinent for me lately. I often wondered why some bi racial people don’t identify with their, say, European heritage and call themselves black, and having read the comments here I can see why. Someone made a point that academia and the ‘system’ forces you to define yourself as one thing or another, and defining yourself as white if you are bi racial seems absurd. But only because of the expectations around what white means. I hate it how bi racial people have to make a choice like that. Doesn’t seem fair.

    Anyway, I look at my son and see so much of myself in him and wonder what the future holds. His experience of life will be so different to mine, although we are almost the same person, precisely because of the confusion that surrounds racial identity. Anyway, I hope he will identify strongly with his European side, even though the cards might be stacked against him to do so. Society will define him first and foremost. That sucks in my view.

    I know it’s important to his mum for him to identify with her African cultural heritage and she involves him in a lot of cultural stuff. Dancing and music. I’m all for it. It very inclusive and nurturing.

    I suppose I impress upon him traditions of my culture too, often unwittingly. At night to put him to sleep I retell stories of knights in armour slaying dragons and how Romulus and Remus founded Rome. I make the stories up. It’s very involved and he likes it. I was brought up middle class so I’m reserved, in the sense things don’t wind me up and I don’t have strong opinions about anything in particular, or if I do I keep them too myself. I have no hangs ups. I’m open-minded and would never force anything upon my son except to excel scholastically and treat people well. I’m not money obsessed but see the value in spending wisely. These I guess are middle class traits. On the other hand his mother does not have the same emotional tie to money as I do and spends lavishly and generously on her relatives and family, a trait I rather envy but cannot emulate as I’m programmed differently.
    So much about our traditions and backgrounds clash and contradict but the one saving grace is our love and fierce on-going mutual attraction.

    How my son will navigate through these cultural differences and the pressures of society I don’t know. But He’s a bright spark with a big personality so I’m confident he’ll manage. I just worry that his road will be rocky and one that as a white father I’ll never truly understand.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Hi Dominic, I think trying to understand that matters even more than actually understanding. Your son is blessed that you are trying. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Tyrone

    This issue will never die, Why? Whites push the interracial issue because it benefits them. Black people don’t gain much from race-mixing…Whites Do! Italians, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, and Spaniards all have African ancestry. But, none of them are black today, because of half-breeds. A lot of black men and women believe “The Fallacy of Interracial.” Meaning, they assume that black folk can mix as much as we want and still remain black at the same time…Pipedream! Half-Black is not real blackness. Mixed folk need their own box, so they can stop annoying real black people. As to whites, of course they’re gonna support mixing. with blacks…they want our dna. Any sane person can decipher their true motives. Whites are obsessed with black sexuality, but, don’t have the courage to admit…Elephant In The Room! As to loyalty, if a biracial person has no love for B & B(Black/Brown), they need not waste our time…Bottomline!