Back to race, not beyond race: multiraciality and racial identity in the United States and Brazil

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-06-23 14:37Z by Steven

Back to race, not beyond race: multiraciality and racial identity in the United States and Brazil

Comparative Migration Studies
Volume 10, Article Number 22 (2022)
DOI: 10.1186/s40878-022-00294-0

Jasmine Mitchell, Associate Professor of American Studies and Media
State University of New York-Old Westbury, Old Westbury, New York

In contrast to discourses of multiraciality as leading to a future beyond race, this commentary looks at how multiracial discourses and symbols underline race. Taking an overview of multiracial discourses and identities in relation to Blackness in the United States and Brazil, this commentary examines the deployment of multiraciality to maintain white supremacy. Under global capitalism, United States multicultural discourses, and Latin American foundational narratives, multiracial peoples are often propped up as a solution to racism, the eradication of race, or reduced to racial binaries centering whiteness. The section ends with considerations of how fears of racial passing and fraud coincide with multiracial identities. Questions for further consideration on the nexus of political identities and racial identities are proposed in relation to multiraciality.

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The Importance of Being Turbaned

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2022-05-21 22:25Z by Steven

The Importance of Being Turbaned

The Antioch Review
Volume 69, Number 2, Spring 2011
pages 208-221

Paul A. Kramer, Associate Professor of History
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

This narrative piece, selected by The Best American Essays 2012 as a “notable essay,” tells the story of Rev. Jesse Routté, an African American Lutheran minister in New York who, in response to racist abuse during a 1943 trip to Mobile, Alabama, returned four years later disguised as a turbaned, Swedish-accented “foreigner.” When he reported positive treatment, it flaunted contradictions in Jim Crow’s racial definitions.

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Why Not Pass?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-05-20 15:21Z by Steven

Why Not Pass?


Gila K. Berryman

Illustration by Fran Murphy/YES! Media

The Vanishing Half” deals with the theme of racial “passing” in the 1950s. Passing is different today, but still presents a choice between safety and authenticity

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was one of the most popular novels of the last few years—a bestseller on multiple “best book” lists. The story begins in 1954, when identical twins Stella and Desiree, aged 16, run away from home and their Southern town of light-skinned Black folks. In a year, the twins will go their separate ways, “their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg,” when Stella crosses over to pass as White—she disappears, marries her White employer, and doesn’t look back.

American Whiteness exacts a high price in exchange for its safety and privilege. In order to pass, Stella severs every connection to her previous life so she can hide her true identity, even from her husband. As a result, she can never completely let her guard down around White people, and she refuses to have anything to do with Black people for fear that they might recognize some vestige of her Blackness…

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The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-05-16 19:38Z by Steven

The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

The Boston Review

Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

A still from Rebecca Hall’s film Passing, based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. Image: Netflix

Though a means of escaping and undermining racial injustice, the practice comes with own set of costs and sacrifices.

In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, adapted by Rebecca Hall and distributed on Netfli­x last fall, Clare Kendry—a light-skinned Black woman—decides to pass as white. Clare grows up poor in Chicago; after her alcoholic father dies, she is taken in by her racist white aunts. When she turns eighteen she marries a rich white man who assumes she is white. Clare makes a clean escape until, some years later, she runs into her childhood friend, Irene Redfield, at a whites-only hotel; Irene, it turns out, sometimes passes herself, in this case to escape the summer heat. The storyline traces their complex relationship after this reunion and ends in tragedy for Clare.

Hall’s film adaptation joins several other recent representations that dramatize the lived experience of passing. The protagonist of Brit Bennett’s best-selling novel The Vanishing Half (2020), for example, decides to start passing as white in the 1950s at age sixteen after responding to a listing in the newspaper for secretarial work in a New Orleans department store. Much to her surprise, after excelling at the typing test, Stella is offered the position; her boss assumes she is white. Initially Stella keeps up the ruse just to support her and her sister, but passing also becomes a way for her to escape the trauma of her father’s lynching and the prospect of her own…

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‘Lost Boundaries’ Doctor Ousted, Charges Bias

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom on 2022-05-09 03:30Z by Steven

‘Lost Boundaries’ Doctor Ousted, Charges Bias

JET Magazine

Dr. Albert C. Johnston, Negro physician in Keene, N. H., whose story of passing for white was told in the movie Lost Boundaries, was fired from his post as radiologist at Keene’s Elliott Community Hospital. Chester Kingsbury, hospital board president, said racial prejudice was not the reason for the dismissal, claimed that Dr. Johnston could not devote full time to the job. Dr. Johnston said he would not seek reinstatement, Dr. Johnston explained there was “no doubt whatsoever” that he was fired because of the film of his life. “They have been picking on me ever since my story came out (in 1949). I don’t give a darn for the job itself, but I’m concerned over the fact that I was fired because I’m a Negro,” he declared. The physician said he learned that the hospital was looking for a new radiologist soon after he let his children know their racial identity in 1947, added that “somebody began knifing me.”

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Lost Boundaries: How a UNH student inspired one of America’s first “race films” and why we’re still talking about it

Posted in Articles, Biography, Communications/Media Studies, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-05-09 02:34Z by Steven

Lost Boundaries: How a UNH student inspired one of America’s first “race films” and why we’re still talking about it

New Hampshire Magazine

J. Dennis Robinson
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A Johnston family portrait. From left to right, standing: Albert Sr. and Albert Jr. From left to right, seated: Thyra, Paul, Ann and Donald.

How a UNH student inspired one of America’s first “race films” and why we’re still talking about it

Albert Johnston Jr. was 16 when he found out he was Black. His fair-skinned African American parents had been “passing” as white, they told him, since moving from Chicago to rural Gorham, New Hampshire, and later to Keene. His father had been the town’s country doctor with 2,500 white patients. He was an active member of the school board, the Masons and the Rotary. His mother Thyra was a two-time president of the Gorham Women’s Club and active in the Congregational Church.

Born in 1925, growing up skiing the White Mountains, Albert had only a single Black acquaintance in high school. In an era of widespread racial segregation and discrimination, he felt a seismic shift as he adapted from a dark-skinned Caucasian to a light-skinned Negro. Formerly gregarious, he drew inward. He attended and then dropped out of Dartmouth College. He enlisted and left the Navy, talked of suicide, battled with his parents, and spent time in a psychiatric ward.

Then Albert took a road trip. Decades before Ken Kesey and “Easy Rider,” with only a few dollars in their pockets, Albert and an old school chum named Walt hitch-hiked and hopped freight trains from New Hampshire to California. For Albert, it was a spiritual journey into the homes of his long-lost African American relatives and into the roots of Black culture. For Walt, who was white, it was a great adventure with a good friend. After odd jobs, a love affair and a stint at the University of California in Los Angeles, Albert found his way home. Renewed and focused, he enrolled in the well-regarded music program at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. And there in a UNH college lounge in front of 20 fellow students, Albert (Class of ’49) finally laid his burden down. During a seminar on the “race problem” in America, the topic turned to “cross-bred” people. He could offer some insight on that topic, Albert told his classmates, because he, himself, was a Negro. The room got very still, he later recalled, like the sudden silence after the climax of a concerto.

“Why not tell everybody?” Albert said. “Why carry a lie around all your life?”…

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How one Civil Rights activist posed as a white man in order to investigate lynchings

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2022-04-21 20:32Z by Steven

How one Civil Rights activist posed as a white man in order to investigate lynchings

Fresh Air
National Public Radio

Dave Davies, Guest Host

White Lies author A.J. Baime tells the story of Walter White, a light-skinned Black man whose ancestors had been enslaved. For years White risked his life investigating racial violence in the South.

Listen to the story (00:42:04) and read the transcript here.

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Merle Oberon: India’s forgotten Hollywood star

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-04-21 14:39Z by Steven

Merle Oberon: India’s forgotten Hollywood star

BBC News

Meryl Sebastian, BBC News, Delhi

Merle Oberon was born in Bombay

Merle Oberon, a Hollywood star of the black and white era, is a forgotten icon in India, the country of her birth.

Best-known for playing the lead in the classic Wuthering Heights, Oberon was an Anglo-Indian born in Bombay in 1911. But as a star in Hollywood’s Golden Age, she kept her background a secret – passing herself off as white – throughout her life.

Mayukh Sen, a US-based writer and academic, first stumbled across her name in 2009 when he found out that Oberon was the first actor of South Asian origin to be nominated for an Oscar.

His fascination grew as he saw her films and dug deeper into her past. “As a queer person, I empathise with this feeling that you must hide a part of your identity to survive in a hostile society that isn’t really ready to accept who you are,” he says. Sen is now working on a biography to tell Oberon’s story from a South Asian perspective…

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Bleach in the Rainbow: Latin Ethnicity and Preference for Whiteness

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Economics, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2022-04-15 01:13Z by Steven

Bleach in the Rainbow: Latin Ethnicity and Preference for Whiteness

Transforming Anthropology
Volume 13, Issue 2 (October 2005)
Pages 103-109
DOI: 10.1525/tran.2005.13.2.103

William A. Darity, Jr., Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Jason Dietrich, Section Chief, Compliance Analytics and Policy
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Darrick Hamilton, Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy
Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment
The New School, New York, New York

The conventional wisdom is that race is constructed in vastly different ways in the United States and throughout Latin America. Race is ostensibly understood as genotypical in the United States, while race ostensibly is understood as phenotypical in Latin America. Furthermore, the conventional wisdom, represented by the rainbow people metaphor, characterizes racial identity as far less a source of stigma in Latin America than in the United States. In contrast, research reported in this article indicates strong similarities in the construction and the operation race the entire Americas. Genotype, or African ancestry, is shown to matter in Latin America; phenotype, or appearance, is shown to matter in the United States. Race is strongly associated with social exclusion and inequality throughout all of the Americas, with Latinos demonstrating a strong preference for Whiteness and an aversion toward a Black identity. African Americans’ tendency to be Black identified may be the result of the social selection effects the phenomenon “passing.”

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June Shagaloff Alexander, School Desegregation Leader, Dies at 93

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-04-15 00:16Z by Steven

June Shagaloff Alexander, School Desegregation Leader, Dies at 93

The New York Times

Clay Risen

June Shagaloff in 1953. Thurgood Marshall hired her out of college to work for the N.A.A.C.P. on school desegregation cases. Bill Sullivan/Newsday RM via Getty Images

She helped Thurgood Marshall prepare for his Supreme Court fight and later took on de facto school segregation across the North and West.

June Shagaloff Alexander, whose work for the N.A.A.C.P. and its legal arm in the 1950s and ’60s put her at the forefront of the nationwide fight for school integration and made her a close confidante of civil rights figures like Thurgood Marshall and James Baldwin, died on March 29 at her home in Tel Aviv. She was 93…

…Although she was white, her dark complexion sometimes led people to assume she was Black, to the point of barring her from certain whites-only public spaces, an experience that she said shaped her early commitment to civil rights.

But this ambiguity proved to be an asset in her work. When investigating a segregated school district, she would visit a white school pretending to be a prospective white parent, then do the same at a Black school, pretending to be a prospective Black parent — a ruse that gave her a unique, unvarnished view of the district’s education inequities…

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