Why do so many others want to claim Blackness if it means oppression?

Posted in Articles, Passing, Social Justice, United Kingdom, United States on 2019-01-19 03:57Z by Steven

Why do so many others want to claim Blackness if it means oppression?

The Black Youth Project
2018-12-27

Inigo Laguda


Anthony Lennon via Facebook | Rachel Dolezal via Wikimedia Commons

It is the most enthralling and excruciating time to be Black. Recently, it seems, some have managed access to glide through avenues that were previously concealed from us—to break down walls that were once erected to ostracize us. We are in the belly of a Black artistic renaissance and some of these shifting tides are joyous to watch. We are flooding onto magazine covers. The silver screen has a vivid range of our stories being told. The littler screen is forming and fleshing out more of our narratives than ever before. Slowly, we are being more and more seen.

But just as the draping trees and tranquil swamp-waters of the southern Bayou once served as an eerily mesmerizing backdrop for the unrelenting violence that enslaved peoples faced as they toiled tirelessly nearby—the painful reality of being Black is one of a dual existence. Victory is juxtaposed with defeat, and joy is never further than a stones throw from pain.

Read the entire article here.

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BLACK FOR A DAY

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-09 22:38Z by Steven

BLACK FOR A DAY

Books, Beats, & Beyond
2019-01-06

Taj Salaam, Host

Black for a Day_ Cover Canva

Today I’m talking with Alisha Gaines, about her book titled, “Black for A Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy”.

Contemporary history is littered with the surprisingly complex stories of white people participating in blackface and minstrelsy. At the end of their experiments in so-called “blackness,” Alisha Gaines argues, these debatably well-meaning white impersonators arrived at little more than false consciousness.

By examining this history of modern racial impersonation, Alisha 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.

Alisha Gaines is assistant professor of English at Florida State University.

Listen to the interview (01:08:53) here.

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Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy by Alisha Gaines (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-09 22:27Z by Steven

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy by Alisha Gaines (review)

Journal of Southern History
The Southern Historical Association
Volume 84, Number 3, August 2018
pages 787-789
DOI: 10.1353/soh.2018.0230

Martha J. Cutter, Professor of English and Africana Studies
University of Connecticut

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy. By Alisha Gaines. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Pp. xvi, 213. Paper, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-3283-4; cloth, $80.00, 978-1-4696-3282-7.)

For many years, we have been told that passing is passé. Yet the recent media frenzy surrounding Rachel Dolezal proves that U.S. culture is still vehemently invested in defining the boundaries of whiteness and blackness. When I flashed a PowerPoint slide of Dolezal last spring in my African American literature class, students broke into a cacophony of groans, shouts, and exclamations of “she’s not black!” I was surprised that all but one of my students instantly recognized Dolezal’s image and that virtually everyone had an opinion about her. The plethora of recent books on racial passing—both on African Americans who pass as white and Anglo Americans who pass as black—further demonstrates this topic’s great fascination. Despite postmodern views that race is a construct, scholars often want to pin a racial passer into one category, usually as either a seeker of freedom from racial codes or a betrayer of his or her “true” race. Yet few have considered what passing tells us about our own investments in racial binaries.

I therefore turned with pleasure to Alisha Gaines’s thoughtful book, Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy, which joins a slim list of studies of “‘passing, in reverse'”: the phenomenon of white people who pass for and sometimes claim to become black (p. 17). Other books on this subject include Baz Dreisinger’s Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (Amherst, Mass., 2008) and some chapters in Julie Cary Nerad’s edited collection, Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010 (Albany, N.Y., 2014). Gaines mentions only one of these works, although I trust that she has consulted both of them.

Gaines’s book is well written and compelling. Her argument that white people’s attempts at “cross-racial empathy” and identification often fail because of their refusal to consider the larger structural and institutional causes of racism is certainly sound (p. 8). Moreover, her use of archival sources is exemplary. I have written about white-to-black passing, yet I still learned much factual information about the passers she studies, including Ray Sprigle, a journalist who published In the Land of Jim Crow (1949); John Howard Griffin, whose book Black Like Me (1961) eclipsed the accounts of all other would-be white passers; Grace Halsell, a white woman and a journalist who took on Griffin’s mantle and published Soul Sister (1969); and finally, the families who switched races in the six-episode television series Black. White. (2006). The book concludes with a short examination of Rachel Dolezal, whom Gaines refuses to consider as “transracial” because the theorization of this term “falls apart” (p. 170). She explains that “blackness becomes the space of racial play, performance, and affect, whereas whiteness does not” (p. 170). This ignores that some light-skinned African Americans did play with whiteness (Jean Toomer, for example) and that some white people crossed over into blackness never to come back (Clarence King and Mezz Mezzrow, for instance). Gaines focuses on creating a genealogy of “temporary black individuals operating under the alibi of racial empathy” in order to illustrate the frequent failure of cross-racial empathy and intimacy (p. 8). Still, I found myself wondering what conclusions Gaines might have reached had she looked at less famous individuals who passed permanently into blackness.

As I have argued elsewhere, passing is a slippery term with roots in deceit and disguise, magic and transformation. The examples Gaines has chosen to include support her argument that temporary assumptions of blackness cannot lead to structural or institutional change. The book might have benefited from a deeper excavation of previous scholarship on white-to-black passing and empathy, but even so, Gaines offers a valuable assessment of how white people problematically inhabit the…

Read or purchase the article here.

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White Women’s Role in School Segregation

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-01-07 01:45Z by Steven

White Women’s Role in School Segregation

JSTOR Daily
2019-01-04

Livia Gershon
Nashua, New Hampshire

A classroom of white students in the 19th century
via Flickr

White American women have long played significant roles in maintaining racist practices. One sociologist calls the phenomenon “social mothering.”

In recent years, many public conversations about American racism have focused on white women—their votes for Trump, their opposition to school desegregation, their calls to the police about black people doing innocuous things. As sociologist Joseph O. Jewell points out, however, this is nothing new. White women have long played a role in maintaining institutional racism in this country.

Jewell focuses on two nineteenth-century incidents involving school segregation. The post-Civil War era was a time of changing racial and gender ideologies. White Anglo-Protestant families in U.S. cities viewed the growing visibility of upwardly mobile racial outsiders as a threat. Meanwhile, public schools and other institutions serving children were growing, creating new roles for middle-class white women—what Jewell calls “social mothering.”

In 1868, a white New Orleans engineer and Confederate army veteran learned there were nonwhite students attending his daughter’s school. When questioned, the school’s principal, the ironically-named Stephanie Bigot, provided a list of twenty-eight students “known, or generally reputed to be colored”—presumably girls whose appearances were passably “white.” Bigot claimed that she had no knowledge of their racial backgrounds but that there were rumors among the student body that they were not white.

Jewell writes that the enrollment of racially ambiguous girls posed a particular threat to white New Orleans families. “Allegations of racial passing compromised the entire student body’s ability to secure either marriage into a ‘good’ family or ‘respectable’ employment,” he writes…

Read the entire article here.

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Other(ing) People’s Children: Social Mothering, Schooling, and Race in Late Nineteenth Century New Orleans and San Francisco

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Campus Life, Economics, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States, Women on 2019-01-05 20:01Z by Steven

Other(ing) People’s Children: Social Mothering, Schooling, and Race in Late Nineteenth Century New Orleans and San Francisco

Race, Gender & Class
Volume 21, No. 3/4, RGC Intersectionalilty, Race, Gender, Class, Health, Justice Issues (2014)
pages 138-155

Joseph O. Jewell, Associate Professor of Sociology
Texas A&M University

Social mothering—women’s carework in the public sphere—played an important role in whites’ responses to racial minorities’ claims to middle-class mobility and identity in the late nineteenth century. In New Orleans and San Francisco, two cities where racial minorities used public education to achieve and reproduce middle-class position, white women principals were central figures in struggles over schooling that contributed to the de jure segregation of black and Asian children. I analyze two historical cases to show how racialized constructions of social mothering helped to maintain links between race and class. In both incidents, public opinion held white professional women responsible for ensuring the racial purity of white children’s public spaces and social identities. I argue that analyses of the race-class intersection should more carefully consider how the economic domination of racial minorities is maintained through various gendered forms of reproductive labor.

Read the entire article here.

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Danzy Senna’s darkly comic take on racial identity

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-12-31 04:21Z by Steven

Danzy Senna’s darkly comic take on racial identity

Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel
CBC Radio
2018-06-15

Eleanor Wachtel, Host


Danzy Senna’s novel New People follows graduate student Maria through bohemian Brooklyn in the 1990s as she wrestles with her identity and her future. (Mara Casey)

American novelist Danzy Senna draws on her experience growing up in an interracial family in her edgy, prize-winning fiction. In her latest novel, New People, she writes with insight and subversive humour about what it means to be half-black and half-white.

Senna was born in Boston in 1970 to parents from very different worlds, who wed a year after interracial marriage became legal. Her mother, the poet and novelist Fanny Howe, came from a privileged background, with English/Irish family roots going back to the Mayflower. Her father, the African-American editor and academic Carl Senna, grew up in poverty in the South, the son of an orphaned black mother and absent Mexican father. In her 2009 memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History, Senna traces her father’s family story and her own complicated upbringing following her parents’ breakup when she was five years old. Raised with an acute black consciousness, during a time when, as Senna describes it, “‘mixed’ wasn’t an option; you were either black or white,” she brings to all her writing an awareness — and astute analysis — of class, race and identity…

Read the entire story here. Listen to the full episode (00:54:47) here.

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The Illusion and Elusiveness of Whiteness: Between Politics and Polemics

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2018-12-27 05:08Z by Steven

The Illusion and Elusiveness of Whiteness: Between Politics and Polemics

ISGAP: Flashpoint
Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy
2018-12-04, Flashpoint 52

Katya Gibel Mevorach, Professor in the Anthropology Department; Chair of the American Studies Concentration
Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa


Katya Gibel Mevorach is a Professor in the Anthropology Department and the Chair of the American Studies Concentration at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. She earned her PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University. Prof. Gibel Mevorach received her BA and MA in African Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

The tenor of “identity politics and polemics” has lost listeners even as the tone of debates has intensified: there is a dialectic of tuning in and out of conversations about whether Jews who look white are, in fact, White? The argument, which gained media traction over the last twenty years – a relatively short period of time for some, but a lifetime for millennials – latched on to the phrase “white Jews” set in juxtaposition to “Jews of color” and “Black Jews.” These expressions may have insinuated themselves into the Jewish forum, but they foolishly ignore Jewish and general history. Too many Jews overlook the significance of scientific racism in Nazi ideology and among white supremacists as well as the simple fact that in all racist societies, ancestry always trumps appearance. This is a central lesson from places where domestic genocide (e.g., Belfast, Kigali and Sarajevo) confounds “outsiders” who do not “see” physical distinctions that locals presume to be obvious.

“Whiteness” in America is not and has never been self-evident – and that is the point of passing: of not revealing information that would reposition someone from “being white” to “not quite white” or “not white” at all.[1] This difference between looking white (appearance) and being white (an existential registry of racial purity) inspired the subtitle of my book “…not the color of your skin but the race of your kin.”[2] It is this difference that was forcefully communicated by white supremacists in Charlottesville and reiterated in Pittsburgh to the consternation of some Jews who feel entitled to whiteness and cry mea culpa while enjoying its privilege.

The desire to identify as white remains astounding to a few people, like me, who were born in the United States only because one of their Jewish parents was among the lucky few to escape Nazi Europe on a passport listing “Jew” as his or her Race. Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a simple question: are you a Jew or are you white? And the answer might have been: I am a Jew and I am perceived as a white person to the extent that I am not too visibly Jewish [i.e. assimilated]

Read the entire article here.

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Passing for White in THE GREAT GATSBY: A Spectroscopic Analysis of Jordan Baker

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, United States on 2018-12-17 05:03Z by Steven

Passing for White in THE GREAT GATSBY: A Spectroscopic Analysis of Jordan Baker

The Explicator
Volume 76, 2018 – Issue 3
Published online: 2018-11-27
DOI: 10.1080/00144940.2018.1489769

Tom Phillips
New York, New York

“Jordan’s fingers, powdered white over their tan, rested for a moment in mine.”

Early in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, narrator Nick Carraway offers the view that personality is “an unbroken series of successful gestures” (6), an extended performance. Nick’s paramour, the racy golfer Jordan Baker, would certainly agree. She is glamorous and opaque, her “pleasant contemptuous expression” (23) so polished it deflects interpretation and critical analysis. However, a close reading focused on Fitzgerald’s descriptions of Baker indicates she can be seen as central to the novel’s concern with identity. Amid the sexual and racial upheavals of the 1920s, she may be Gatsby’s most successful imposter—a light-skinned, mixed-race person “passing for white.”

Such suspicions were directed at Gatsby himself by Carlyle V. Thompson in a 2000 essay, “Was Gatsby Black?”—an argument quickly dismissed for insufficient textual evidence (Manus). In Jordan’s case evidence runs throughout the text, obscured by her proximity to Gatsby and Daisy, and Fitzgerald’s deceptive style, in which significant detail can “pass” as merely decorative.

Twentieth-century critics typically wrote Baker off as an enigma; Lionel Trilling found her “vaguely guilty, vaguely homosexual” (243). In this century, Maggie Froehlich has taken a closer look. Building on Edward Wasiolek’s case that Nick is a careful homosexual, she concludes that Jordan is one too—that the bond between them is a dissent from sexual norms (Froehlich 83ff; Wasiolek 14-22). This is a reasonable reading; the “hard demands of her Jaunty body” (63) may well go beyond her cool affair with Nick. However, an accumulation of detail marks her also as a person of color, presenting herself as white. In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, a lead character describes it as a “frightfully easy thing to do … If one’s the type, all that’s needed is a little nerve” (15). The “type” in this context clearly refers to complexion.

In at least eight passages, Fitzgerald touches on Baker’s complexion; no one else’s skin is mentioned, save one reference to Gatsby as “suntanned” (54). In a novel of “spectroscopic gayety” (49) she occupies an arc of color from yellow…

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Michael Tisserand: “Krazy Kat and the Poetics of Passing” | Talks at Google

Posted in Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2018-12-01 03:50Z by Steven

Michael Tisserand: “Krazy Kat and the Poetics of Passing” | Talks at Google

Talks at Google
2018-06-26

Michael discusses his book, “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White,” winner of the 2017 Eisner Award for best comics-related book, and a finalist in both the National Book Critics Circle Awards for Biography and the PEN America/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. Krazy was also selected as a Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2016 and as one of Vanity Fair‘s “Must-Read Books of the Holiday Season.”

Tisserand’s previous books include THE KINGDOM OF ZYDECO, an exploration of Louisiana music that received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for music writing, and the Hurricane Katrina memoir SUGARCANE ACADEMY. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. When not writing, he coaches scholastic chess and is a member of The Laissez Boys, a Mardi Gras parading organization.

More information about Tisserand and his work can be found at www.MichaelTisserand.com.

Moderated by Camille Gennaio.

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Writer and actor Indigo Griffiths: ‘Mixed-race identity is not reflected in theatre, so I wanted to explore that’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom on 2018-11-26 02:45Z by Steven

Writer and actor Indigo Griffiths: ‘Mixed-race identity is not reflected in theatre, so I wanted to explore that’

The Stage
London, United Kingdom
2018-11-22

Giverny Masso

Writer and actor Indigo Griffiths. Photo: Michael Wharley
Writer and actor Indigo Griffiths. Photo: Michael Wharley

Actor Indigo Griffiths started writing to address the lack of roles for mixed-race performers. She tells Giverny Masso about her first full-length play, Passing, which is to receive a rehearsed reading on a West End stage as part of the Masterclass Trust’s Pitch Your Play competition.

How did you get into theatre?

Theatre has always been something I’ve done. As a kid I was always in youth groups and I knew early on I wanted to be an actor. I studied drama and English literature at the University of East Anglia, which gave me an amazing grounding. I then did a postgraduate course at Drama Studio London, which I graduated from in 2016. Since then I’ve been working as an actor, before I started writing…

Tell me about Passing?

Passing is the first full-length play I’ve written. It’s part of a trilogy of mixed-race themed plays I have been working on. It’s set in 1940s Chicago and is about the lives of three mixed-race siblings. The play explores how lives change when you make the decision to pass as a white person. Passing as a concept is something that fascinates me…

Read the entire interview here.

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