Scholarly perspectives on the mixed race experience.
A focus on Sui Sin Far’s depiction of Eurasian characters and on the subject of interracial marriage illustrates her multifaceted understanding of the crisis in US race relations. Through the treatment of these subjects, she enacts a revolutionary revisioning of race differences. The stories found in Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Writings, including “Pat and Pan,” “Its Wavering Image,” along with excerpts from “The Story of One White Woman who Married a Chinese,” “Her Loving Husband,” and Sui Sin Far’s autobiographical essay, “Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian,” exemplify the artistic and psychological complexity of Sui Sin Far’s treatment of the biracial character and of interracial marriage. In particular, by addressing these themes, Sui Sin Far deconstructs Orientalism by dramatizing the destructive ways in which North American culture defines the Chinese as inhuman “Other” in order to prevent interracial understanding and maintain profitable power structures. Sui Sin Far’s fiction and essays illustrate the lengths to which members of the dominant culture will go to preserve a notion of racial purity based on hatred and ignorance, and she explores the terrible effects that racism has on its victims.
Johnson’s novel provocatively engages with political and cultural strains still prevalent in American discourse today, and it remains in print over a century after its initial publication. New Perspectives contains fresh essays that analyze the book’s reverberations, the contexts within which it was created and received, the aesthetic and intellectual developments of its author, and its continuing influence on American literature and global culture.
White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing is the story of Gail Lukasik’s mother’s “passing,” Gail’s struggle with the shame of her mother’s choice, and her subsequent journey of self-discovery and redemption.
In the historical context of the Jim CrowSouth, Gail explores her mother’s decision to pass, how she hid her secret even from her own husband, and the price she paid for choosing whiteness. Haunted by her mother’s fear and shame, Gail embarks on a quest to uncover her mother’s racial lineage, tracing her family back to eighteenth-century colonial Louisiana. In coming to terms with her decision to publicly out her mother, Gail changed how she looks at race and heritage.
With a foreword written by Kenyatta Berry, host of PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow, this unique and fascinating story of coming to terms with oneself breaks down barriers.
I am white, I am black, I am Native American. And I know what it’s like for people not to see all of who I am
On a hot, humid New York City morning in 1980, I stood with my mother in the checkout line of an A&P supermarket near our home. As she pushed our groceries along the cashier’s belt with me trailing behind, mom realized she had forgotten her wallet at home, but she had her checkbook. Leaving me standing alone in the line for a moment while she saw the manager to have her check approved, the clerk refused to bag our groceries and hand them to me. She was black, and I was white. “These groceries belong to that woman over there,” the woman nodded towards my mother. “They ain’t yours.” Confused, I said, “But that’s my mother. I’ll take them for her.” She looked me up and down. “No,” she said, her voice cold.
The clerk refused to believe that indeed I belonged to, and came from, my black mother, until mom returned to find me choking back tears. She gave the clerk a tongue lashing, which was not her style, and we left the market. Later, mixed Native American and black children threw stones at me near my home on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation as I rode my bike. They yelled, “Get off our land, white girl!” These painful and strange experiences gave me my first taste of racial prejudice, and they have stayed with me all these years.
I am a child of many nations. I am white, I am black, I am Native American. I am West Indian, German, Irish. Brown and light together — integrated, not inter-racial, because race means nothing when you come from everywhere…
I am a multiracial American; my mother is Okinawan, my father is German and Australian. My grandparents came from four different continents. I identify as both Asian and Caucasian, and although I am often identified on the outside as not quite white and not quite “ethnic,” I easily pass for white in a world obsessed with color and race.
Multiracial people face a perplexing paradox. We are not fully white, and yet not fully “not white” enough to be considered a person of color (POC). Growing up biracial, I identified strongly with Spock (yes, from Star Trek). Spock is half Human and half Vulcan, and is ostracized by both halves of himself for not quite belonging to either culture.
Teresa Williams-León, a professor of Asian-American studies at California State University, Northridge, uses Spock as an object lesson in her class, “Biracial and Multiracial Identity.” She sees the parallels between Spock’s inner conflict between his Vulcan and Human identity. “He had to subdue his emotional side to become more cerebral and logical,” she said. “So that’s problematic. But it’s an interesting way of looking at how biracial people have had to suppress aspects of themselves, or one part of themselves.”…
Zélie Asava, Lecturer and Programme Director of Video and Film Dundalk Institute of Technology, Louth, Ireland
Using critical race theory and film studies to explore the interconnectedness between cinema and society, Zélie Asava traces the history of mixed-race representations in American and French filmmaking from early and silent cinema to the present day. Mixed Race Cinemas covers over a hundred years of filmmaking to chart the development of (black/white) mixed representations onscreen. With the 21st century being labelled the Mulatto Millennium, mixed bodies are more prevalent than ever in the public sphere, yet all too often they continue to be positioned as exotic, strange and otherworldly, according to ‘tragic mulatto‘ tropes. This book evaluates the potential for moving beyond fixed racial binaries both onscreen and off by exploring actors and characters who embody the in-between. Through analyses of over 40 movies, and case studies of key films from the 1910s on, Mixed Race Cinemas illuminates landmark shifts in local and global cinema, exploring discourses of subjectivity, race, gender, sexuality and class. In doing so, it reveals the similarities and contrasts between American and French cinema in relation to recognising, visualising and constructing mixedness. Mixed Race Cinemas contextualizes and critiques raced and ‘post-race’ visual culture, using cinematic representations to illustrate changing definitions of mixed identity across different historical and geographical contexts.
1. Race and Ideology
2. Mixed-Race Cinema Histories
3. Interrogating Terminology
4. Methodology and Frameworks
5. Mixed-Race Spaces in French and American Cinema
6. Franco-American Narratives and Beur Cinema
7. Summary of Chapters
Chapter One: the Mixed Question
1. Language, Representation and Casting
2. The Historical Mulatta Screen Stereotype in America
3. The Historical Mulatta Screen Stereotype in France
Alisha Gaines, Assistant Professor of English Florida State University
In 1948, journalist Ray Sprigle traded his whiteness to live as a black man for four weeks. A little over a decade later, John Howard Griffin famously “became” black as well, traveling the American South in search of a certain kind of racial understanding. Contemporary history is littered with the surprisingly complex stories of white people passing as black, and here Alisha Gaines constructs a unique genealogy of “empathetic racial impersonation”–white liberals walking in the fantasy of black skin under the alibi of cross-racial empathy. At the end of their experiments in “blackness,” Gaines argues, these debatably well-meaning white impersonators arrived at little more than false consciousness.
Complicating the histories of black-to-white passing and blackface minstrelsy, Gaines uses an interdisciplinary approach rooted in literary studies, race theory, and cultural studies to reveal these sometimes maddening, and often absurd, experiments of racial impersonation. By examining this history of modern racial impersonation, Gaines shows that there was, and still is, a faulty cultural logic that places enormous faith in the idea that empathy is all that white Americans need to make a significant difference in how to racially navigate our society.
I’m sitting across from Rachel Dolezal, and she looks… white. Not a little white, not racially ambiguous. Dolezal looks really, really white. She looks like a white woman with a mild suntan, in box braids—like perhaps she’d just gotten back from a Caribbean vacation and decided to keep the hairstyle for a few days “for fun.”
She is also smaller than I expected, tiny even—even in her wedge heels and jeans. I’m six feet tall and fat. I wonder for a moment what this conversation might look like to bystanders if things were to get heated—a giant black woman interrogating a tiny white woman. Everything about Dolezal is smaller than expected—the tiny house she rents, the limited and very used furniture. Her 1-year-old son toddles in front of cartoons playing on a small television. The only thing of real size in the house seems to be a painting of her adopted brother, and now adopted son, Izaiah, from when he was a young child. The painting looms over Dolezal on the living-room wall as she begins to talk. I try to get my bearings and listen to what she’s trying to say, but for the first few moments, my mind keeps repeating: “How in the hell did I get here?”
I did not want to think about, talk about, or write about Rachel Dolezal ever again. While many people have been highly entertained by the story of a woman who passed herself off for almost a decade as a black woman, even rising to the head of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, before being “outed” during a TV interview by KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey as white, as later confirmed by her white parents, I found little amusement in her continued spotlight. When the story first broke in June 2015, I was approached by more editors in a week than I had heard from in two months. They were all looking for “fresh takes” on the Dolezal scandal from the very people whose identity had now been put up for debate—black women. I wrote two pieces on Dolezal for two different websites, mostly focused not on her, but on the lack of understanding of black women’s identity that was causing the conversation about Dolezal to become more and more painful for so many black women.
After a few weeks of media obsession, I—and most of the other black women I knew—was completely done with Rachel Dolezal.
Why She’s Foxy: After digging up a wild family secret at the age of eighteen, she discovered her roots, directed a PBS documentary and found her strength in storytelling
On Her Childhood: “I grew up an only child in the deep in the country in Accord, New York. You couldn’t see other houses from where I was, and it felt like a bubble. You would have to ask my parents, but I think I was pretty chill as a kid. I was a very rational child who could entertain myself. My favorite books were Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin and Betsy-Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace.”…
…On Little White Lies: “After law school, I had an offer on the table and started waiting tables in New York. I considered going into the mailroom at an agency. I ended up getting a job at a production company and then in the background started thinking about making Little White Lie, a personal documentary about dual identity and family secrets. My story is I grew up in a white Jewish family in upstate New York. I thought I was white, despite my dark features, until I found out at the age of eighteen that my biological father was black…
Rachel Dolezal, the former branch president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who gained global notoriety in 2015 after being “outed” as a white woman pretending to be black, is back with a new book on race. Dolezal, who is ethnically German, now claims that she is “transracial”, a condition she compares to transgenderism. By this she means that although she was born white, she identifies with being black, arguing that race is a social construct.
Dolezal complains of further victimisation because “transracialism” is not recognised in the same way as transgenderism. And Dolezal sees herself as triply stigmatised; because of her race, because of her trans status and also because of the perceived illegitimacy of this status.
For someone like me, concerned both with race and with the role of narrative in culture, the narrative spun by Dolezal is both confounding and uniquely fascinating. In an interview with BBC Newsnight, she announced – not incorrectly, in my view – that “race is a lie”. At the same time, she laid claim to the transracialism that she demands to be accepted as a truth…
As generations passed, ideas of “black” and “white” were further complicated by the complex striations of racial coding that were implemented both during and after slavery, across the Americas, as a consequence of voluntary and involuntary coupling between Europeans and Africans.
This led to a dizzying taxonomy of racial mixes, including (but not confined to) so-called mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, tercerons, quintroons and beyond, depending on how many generations back a person’s African ancestry was traced. A person might be able to pass as white if their direct African ancestry was three or four generations removed – although if their relative “blackness” was discovered, it was a source not only of shame but was a precondition of legal slavery…