How The Vanishing Half fits into our cultural fixation with racial passing stories

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-09-19 20:36Z by Steven

How The Vanishing Half fits into our cultural fixation with racial passing stories

Vox
2020-08-14

Constance Grady


Zac Freeland/Vox

The Vox Book Club is linking to Bookshop.org to support local and independent booksellers.

Passing for white never left.”

In Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, the character of Stella haunts the narrative like a ghost. Stella is the half who vanished: half of her family, half of her sister’s heart. And she vanished by excising half of her own identity.

Stella is a light-skinned Black woman, and when she is 16, she decides to start passing for white. Her identical twin sister Desiree, meanwhile, grows up to marry the darkest-skinned man she can find. Stella breaks away from her family, and we don’t get a chance to meet her on the pages of the novel until nearly halfway through the book when at last her niece, Desiree’s dark-skinned daughter, tracks her down. It’s only in that last section that we finally learn exactly what happened to Stella.

Stella’s fate haunts the novel, and so does the genre her story belongs to. There’s a long history of narratives of racial passing in the American novel, and The Vanishing Half plays with the genre in new and interesting ways. So as the Vox Book Club spends the month talking about The Vanishing Half, I wanted to put it in the context of the passing novel more broadly.

To get an expert view, I called up Alisha Gaines, an English professor at Florida State University and the author of Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy. Together, we talked through the history of the African American passing novel, what passing looks like after Jim Crow (sorry, Ben Shapiro), and how passing novels can show us how race is produced and reproduced. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.

The first African American stories of racial passing are slave narratives

Constance Grady

Do we know when the first of these narratives emerged? How old are stories about racial passing?

Alisha Gaines

It’s an old story. In literature and in life, America has a fascination with impersonation, which includes blackface minstrelsy. And passing narratives, if you want to be technical about it, in African American literature, they start with the slave narrative…

Read the entire interview here.

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Passing for White to Escape Slavery

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2020-09-19 20:07Z by Steven

Passing for White to Escape Slavery

JSTOR Daily: where news meets its scholarly match
2020-09-17

Matthew Wills


Ellen and William Craft via Flickr/ Flickr

Passing for white was an intentional strategy that enslaved people used to free themselves from bondage

Racial passing is in the news with the case of Jessica Krug, a white academic who claimed several Black identities throughout her professional career. The phenomenon of white people putting on different backgrounds is widespread—for example, as shown in well-documented cases of white people claiming Native American ancestry. But passing for Black seems, well, different.

One reason for that may be that the idea of passing has historically been linked to Black people passing for white. Scholar Martha J. Cutter, digging into “the early history of racial passing,” argues that it originated in advertisements offering rewards for captured runaway slaves starting in the mid-eighteenth century, decades before the American Revolution.

“The archive suggests that while laws from state to state and in different time periods varied, the idea of an enslaved individual from a black family heritage deliberately passing for white was frequently configured as duplicitous and even incendiary,” she writes…

Read the entire article here.

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Because She Can: The Unbearable Whiteness of Jessie

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-13 01:25Z by Steven

Because She Can: The Unbearable Whiteness of Jessie

The Crisis
2020-09-09

TaRessa Stovall

I’m a mixed (Black, Jewish, Native American) boomer, very light-skinned and so racially ambiguous looking that most people question, assume and try to challenge my racial identity.

My copper-toned Black father hated that I wouldn’t exploit my appearance to “be anything.” My Russian Jewish mother wondered about my lifelong allegiance to Blackness and my stubborn insistence on conveying the messy totality of my DNA even when it wasn’t comfortable, advantageous or convenient.

Still, I never lied about my identity. Even when doing so might have made my life easier.

We’re familiar with the reasons that many Black people passed for white, especially in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras — as a way to lessen oppression and “level up” to better opportunities. But why would a white person discard their privilege to pretend to be Black?

Read the entire article here.

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Passing Revisited: Racial Passing and White Supremacy

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-13 00:34Z by Steven

Passing Revisited: Racial Passing and White Supremacy

Medium
2020-09-04

Jennifer Rittner

In the wake of the white supremacist marches in 2017, I wrote a short reflection on racial passing. In that essay I wrote about my Black mother, my white son, and the absurd mythologies of racial purity needed by white supremacists to support their beliefs. Those marchers surely counted among them many who had direct African American heritage as a result of near ancestors who had passed for white in the inhospitable environments of legal slavery and Jim Crow.

The White Supremacy of Masquerading as Black

White supremacy rears its head again in another form of passing, as men and women who have grown up as white children in white families have taken to masquerading as Black adults in order to achieve personal success as race warriors. Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal, two sisters-in-deceit, both manipulated their ways to success by passing as a Black woman, and in the process, denying actual women of color the opportunities they took for themselves. Their behavior should cause us to reflect on our United States of Racial Anxiety as we are all, in fact, oppressed by our nation’s historical, collective weaponization of race. While adamantly censuring both of these women, we can use their deceptions as opportunities to reflect on how the social conditions we construct and perpetuate demand certain forms of racial authenticity, often built on the anxieties we all feel about passing as something.

First, two resources for anyone interested in the history of passing:

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life is a well-researched and beautiful read on the topic. James Baldwin, Another Country was one of the first books in which I felt seen around the question of passing as a social act…

Read the entire article here.

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Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2020-09-11 02:22Z by Steven

Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University

Smithsonian Magazine
2020-09-08

Bryan Greene
Washington, D.C.


Because the 19th-century college president appeared white, he was able to climb the ladder of the Jesuit community

This back-to-school season, as the coronavirus pandemic demands continued social distancing, many college students are logging onto their classes remotely. While the country fights this public health crisis on one front, it fights the ongoing effects of systemic racism on another, and the battle is joined on America’s college campuses, where skyrocketing tuition costs, debates over academic freedom, and reckonings with the legacies of institutional racism come together.

The University of North Carolina, for instance, has had to tackle both crises this summer, as it shuttered dorms and sent students home after Covid-19 cases spiked soon after opening. In July, administrators approved guidelines for renaming buildings that currently honor North Carolinians who promoted the murderous 1898 overthrow of Wilmington’s elected multiracial government. In June, meanwhile, Princeton acceded to longstanding demands to strip Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school, since his most notorious public policy as President of the United States was to segregate the federal workforce. Following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an ever-widening circle of students on campuses nationwide are re-examining their institutions’ unquestioned genuflection to their white-supremacist heritage.

But at Georgetown University, students, faculty, alumni, and administration have been re-appraising the school’s racist past for years. In 1838, when the Jesuit school was deep in debt, its president, Reverend Thomas F. Mulledy, on behalf of the Maryland Jesuits, sold 272 black men, women and children to Louisiana plantations to keep the school afloat. Three years ago, Georgetown pulled Mulledy’s name off a dormitory, replacing it with the name of enslaved laborer Isaac Hawkins. Georgetown will now consider applicants who are descendants of these enslaved persons in the same light as the children of faculty, staff and alumni for purposes of admission.

What makes Georgetown’s reflective moment most remarkable, however, and complicated, is that 35 years after Mulledy salvaged the school’s finances by selling human property, the school would be led by a man who, himself, was born enslaved. The story of Georgetown president Reverend Patrick Francis Healy reveals how a university built by enslaved persons, and rescued from collapse by the sale of enslaved persons, saw its “second founding” in the late 19th century under the guidance of a man whom the Jesuits knew had been born black but helped “pass” as white

Read the entire article here.

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Jessica Krug and the theft of Black Latina identity.

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-11 01:34Z by Steven

Jessica Krug and the theft of Black Latina identity.

Daily Kos
2020-09-05

Denise Oliver Velez


Professor Jessica A. Krug, a white woman from Kansas, who has been passing herself off as an Afro-Latina
Professor Jessica Krug, panelist, Diasporic Politics panel Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS) 25th Anniversary Conference, Friday , Columbia University, April 26, 2019

We all know what identity theft is, in a world filled with cyber crimes. We’ve all watched horror films with body snatchers as the main villains. Things become far more complicated when we address the issue of humans who, for a host of warped reasons, assume a false racial or ethnic identity.

Such is the case of Professor Jessica A. Krug, who is currently an Associate Professor of African American history at George Washington University. Krug has for years portrayed herself as Black, and Afro-Latina, while publishing her academic work, receiving grant funding, teaching and also acting as a Afro-Latina political activist from the Bronx under the pseudonym “Jess La Bombalera,” all the while hiding her real self — a white woman from Kansas City.

Her exposure as a fraud, has unleashed a firestorm of pushback on social media and in academia, similar to the exposure of black-passing Rachel Dolezal in 2015…

Read the entire article here.

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How do we prevent another Jessica Krug or Rachel Dolezal? Here are some solutions!

Posted in Campus Life, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2020-09-10 01:40Z by Steven

How do we prevent another Jessica Krug or Rachel Dolezal? Here are some solutions!

YouTube
2020-09-05

Dr. Chi [Chinyere K. Osuji], Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

What the video (00:15:11) here.

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On Jessica Krug and Mixed Race Identity

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-10 01:27Z by Steven

On Jessica Krug and Mixed Race Identity

Medium
2020-09-08

Josephine

The revelation in fall 2020 that Jessica Krug, a white American woman, just like Rachel Dolezal before her, spent years holding herself out as Black and Black Latina woman made us all cringe. Krug took pains to make her skin appear bronzed, she dressed in form-fitting clothing, and kept her hair dyed dark black, adding in curly or wavy texture for good measure. We all remember Dolezal’s kinky textured blonde hair and braids that gave her a distinctly ‘mixed race’ look. These women hogged the limelight and took employment and community outreach opportunities from Black women.

Their masquerade has prompted a conversation within the Black and Latinx communities around colorism: the way that light-skinned, mixed race, and white-passing Black women seem to get opportunities that are not available to dark-skinned Black women.

As long as I can remember, American movies with a Black man as the protagonist invariably had him fall in love with a Black woman who appeared mixed race. As a mixed race woman, I noticed this, and I could see how unfair it was: the subtle message was that I would be accepted as beautiful in the black community. Looking back, I see how those same films and series made dark-skinned women question their worth.

Remember Dorothy Dandridge’s ‘exotic’ beauty? We wonder why black women feel pressure to straighten their hair and lighten their skin, but in popular culture, we have all been conditioned to see light-skinned women as the only presentable face of black womanhood. The use of mixed race women as the face of blackness has long left out the majority of Black women who have a beauty that is not contingent on detectable quantum of white blood…

Read the entire article here.

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White GWU professor admits she falsely claimed Black identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-09-03 19:45Z by Steven

White GWU professor admits she falsely claimed Black identity

The Washington Post
2020-09-03

Lauren Lumpkin and Susan Svrluga


A George Washington University history professor falsely claimed a Black identity throughout her life, she admitted Thursday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

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Jessica A. Krug, an associate professor at George Washington University, said she’s claimed a Black identity throughout her career.

A history professor at George Washington University admitted in a blog post to claiming a Black identity, despite being White.

Jessica A. Krug said she has deceived friends and colleagues by falsely claiming several identities, including “North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness,” she wrote in a blog post on Medium. Krug, whose areas of expertise include African American history, Africa and Latin America, is White and Jewish, she admitted.

“I am not a culture vulture. I am a culture leech,” Krug wrote. “I have thought about ending these lies many times over many years, but my cowardice was always more powerful than my ethics.”

Neither Krug nor the university immediately returned a request for comment.

Krug, in the blog post, said she has been battling “unaddressed mental health demons” for her entire life. She said she started to assume a false identity as a child.

Read the entire article here.

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The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-09-03 19:17Z by Steven

The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies

Medium
2020-09-03

Jessica A. Krug, Associate Professor of History
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

For the better part of my adult life, every move I’ve made, every relationship I’ve formed, has been rooted in the napalm toxic soil of lies.

Not just any lies.

To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness. I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring. People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love…

Read the entire essay here.

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