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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Dash Harris is doing the work to end anti-Blackness in LatinX culture

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2020-09-19 01:50Z by Steven

Dash Harris is doing the work to end anti-Blackness in LatinX culture

theGrio
2020-06-16

DeMicia Inman

Through her work in creating ‘NEGRO: A DOCU-SERIES ABOUT LATINX IDENTITY,’ Harris hopes to dismantle anti-Blackness in the LatinX community.

The African diaspora gave much of the world a very layered identity. For centuries, the slave trade resulted in African natives being sold or stolen as slaves and transported across the globe. Now, Black people reside in countries from the United States and Brazil to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Dash Harris, an Afro-LatinX woman, understands not only her multi-cultural heritage but also the implications and societal structure surrounding her identity. Through her work in creating NEGRO: A DOCU-SERIES ABOUT LATINX IDENTITY and more, she hopes to highlight LatinX existence and dismantle anti-Blackness in the LatinX community…

Read the entire interview here.

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GUEST ROOM | Create a Mixed-Race Studies Department at Cornell

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, United States on 2020-09-18 20:47Z by Steven

GUEST ROOM | Create a Mixed-Race Studies Department at Cornell

The Cornell Daily Sun
Ithaca, New York
2020-09-18

Katherine Luong, Junior
College of Human Ecology
Cornell University, Ithaca New York

We shouldn’t continue to exclude the fastest-growing population in the United States from higher education. Many mixed-race people grapple with defining their experiences and identities which can leak into their academic and professional lives.

The importance of ethnic and racial identity cannot be more relevant than it is now. The recent resurgence of racial tensions in the U.S. has highlighted the distinct experiences of historically oppressed racial minorities, especially those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Black Lives Matter has gained incredible traction within mainstream political conversation, yet its issues (such as police brutality and system racism) do not affect only monoracial people. Understanding that the mixed experience includes many of the same racial prejudices as monoracial POC is crucial for the inclusivity of mixed people in spaces generally reserved for people of a singular race. Especially with the push Cornell is taking to create an anti-racist campus, this is the perfect time and place to create a mixed-race studies department that would give legitimacy to mixed people on campus and beyond.

There is a lack of ethnic-racial typicality associated with being mixed-race, but this does not negate the already-existing shared experiences of mixed people of all backgrounds. Such experiences include the feeling of being “in-between” and “not enough,” having to choose between displaying loyalty to one aspect of their identity instead of embracing both, language barriers between family members (especially between immigrant families residing in the U.S.) and other mix-specific experiences…

Read the entire article here.

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(Un-)mixing in the Mandate: purity and persistence of ‘German-time’

Posted in Books, Chapter, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2020-09-17 17:49Z by Steven

(Un-)mixing in the Mandate: purity and persistence of ‘German-time’
in New Guinea

Chapter in: Norig Neveu, Philippe Bourmaud and Chantal Verdeil (Eds), Experts et expertise dans les mandats de la Société des Nations: figures, champs et outils, [The Expert in the Mandate], Inalco Presses, 2020

Christine Winter, Associate Professor and Matthew Flinders Fellow in History
Flinders University of South Australia
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
South Australia, Australia

“Unmixing” is a central term in the debates to bring stability and peace after WWI by ethnically homogenising regions and new nations: “… to unmix tlie (sic) populations of the Near East will tend to secure the true pacification of the Near East…” (Fritzhof Nansen, Lausanne Conference, Quoted by Sadia Abbas, Unmixing, Politicalconcepts, 2012.) So how did the nations with aspirations to ‘rule’ New Guinea deal with what could not be ‘un-mixed’: people of mixed descent, and what did this mean for German-New Guineans?

This chapter is an exploration of Weimar and Nazi German colonialism focusing on the Pacific Mandates. It focuses on leagies of German colonialism after the end of the formal German colonial empire. The crisis of the League of Nations destabilized the legitimacy of Mandate rule in the Pacific during the mid-1930s. Purity and persistence of Germanness became a theme for both the Mandate Administration and the Third Reich. In this chapter I explore the role and function of Germans of ambiguous racial belonging, namely mixed-race German Pacific Islanders, in a wider contest of expert advice and policy development. Racial scientists, German missionaries and ex-colonial officials all had a stake in the future of the Mandated Territories, and its mixed-race German population. Depending on the argument and on their place of residency – Germany or the Pacific – mixed-race German-Pacific Islanders were used as fellow Germans or as ‘natives’ to legitimize German claims.

Read the chapter draft here.

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The Illusion of Inclusion — The “All of Us” Research Program and Indigenous Peoples’ DNA

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2020-09-13 02:16Z by Steven

The Illusion of Inclusion — The “All of Us” Research Program and Indigenous Peoples’ DNA

The New England Journal of Medicine
Issue 383 (2020-07-30)
pages 411-413
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1915987

Keolu Fox, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Raw data, including digital sequence information derived from human genomes, have in recent years emerged as a top global commodity. This shift is so new that experts are still evaluating what such information is worth in a global market. In 2018, the direct-to-consumer genetic-testing company 23andMe sold access to its database containing digital sequence information from approximately 5 million people to GlaxoSmithKline for $300 million. Earlier this year, 23andMe partnered with Almirall, a Spanish drug company that is using the information to develop a new antiinflammatory drug for autoimmune disorders. This move marks the first time that 23andMe has signed a deal to license a drug for development.

Eighty-eight percent of people included in large-scale studies of human genetic variation are of European ancestry, as are the majority of participants in clinical trials.1 Corporations such as Geisinger Health System, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe have already mined genomic databases for the strongest genotype–phenotype associations. For the field to advance, a new approach is needed. There are many potential ways to improve existing databases, including “deep phenotyping,” which involves collecting precise measurements from blood panels, questionnaires, cognitive surveys, and other tests administered to research participants. But this approach is costly and physiologically and mentally burdensome for participants. Another approach is to expand existing biobanks by adding genetic information from populations whose genomes have not yet been sequenced — information that may offer opportunities for discovering globally rare but locally common population-specific variants, which could be useful for identifying new potential drug targets.

Many Indigenous populations have been geographically isolated for tens of thousands of years. Over time, these populations have developed adaptations to their environments that have left specific variant signatures in their genomes. As a result, the genomes of Indigenous peoples are a treasure trove of unexplored variation. Some of this variation will inevitably be identified by programs like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “All of Us” research program. NIH leaders have committed to the idea that at least 50% of this program’s participants should be members of underrepresented minority populations, including U.S. Indigenous communities (Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and Native Hawaiians), a decision that explicitly connects diversity with the program’s goal of promoting equal enjoyment of the future benefits of precision medicine.

But there are reasons to believe that this promise may be an illusion. Previous government-funded, large-scale human genome sequencing efforts, such as the Human Genome Diversity Project, the International HapMap Project, and the 1000 Genomes Project, provide examples of the ways in which open-source data have been commodified in the past. These initiatives, which promised unrestricted, open access to data on population-specific biomarkers, ultimately enabled the generation of nearly a billion dollars’ worth of profits by pharmaceutical and ancestry-testing companies. If the All of Us program uses the same unrestricted data-access and sharing protocols, there will be no built-in mechanisms to protect against the commodification of Indigenous peoples’ DNA…

Read the entire article in PDF or HTML format.

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Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2020-09-13 01:55Z by Steven

Afro-German Women are Still Upholding the Legacy of May Ayim

Catapult
2020-09-10

Tari Ngangura


May Ayim with Audre Lorde/Photograph via audrelordeberlin.com

There have always been people suffering from anti-Blackness. And May Ayim highlights the continuity of the Black experience—not only her own, but those before her as well.

In 1986, Afro-German author and poet May Opitz—better known as May Ayim—co-edited the anthology, Showing Our Colours: Afro-German Women Speak Out. The book carries the stories of Afro-German women and their volatile, often violent experiences with anti-Blackness, belonging, and sexism in the European nation. Showing Our Colours remains a seminal offering in works that claim the existence and legitimacy of Black history within Europe, and also examines Germany’s specific role in the nineteenth century colonization of Africa—including the genocide in Namibia, which saw over one hundred thousand of the Herero, Nama, and San people killed by the German regime from 1904 until 1908.

Those who survived the genocide were locked in concentration camps, a precursor to those that would be utilized in the Holocaust. Showing Our Colours is as much about claiming space as it is about holding Germany accountable to its imperial history and its effects on the contemporary realities of Black immigrants living in the country. The book also outlines political shifts through the ages that saw terms like Moor, Negro, and African morph into racial epithets that would later be used by pseudoscientists to justify anti-Black racism, fascism, and medical bias.

Ayim died by suicide in 1996, and in her life and death, I see a testament to the resilience of Black women, and an indictment of insidious white supremacy that makes Black life a fragile negotiation between visibility and erasure. Since her death, Ayim’s work has been revisited most often by young Afro-Germans searching for the language and tools to explore their Blackness and womanhood alongside a European history that interrupted their ancestry and systematically destabilizes their present. For Afro-Germans, and especially the youth who have lived through global Black Lives Matter conversations, who witnessed police brutality on both a national and global scale, it is not enough to be simply German. It’s in this space that Ayim’s work is finding new eyes…

I spoke with Marny Garcia Mommertz, a Black-German researcher born in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, about how the late author’s work has been something of a map, detailing similar experiences of othering, and a reminder that her contemporary reality is not simply of her own making, but part of a larger structural legacy of oppression…

Read the entire interview 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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As 2020 census winds up, multiracial Hoosiers reflect on 20 years of being counted

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, United States on 2020-09-13 01:11Z by Steven

As 2020 census winds up, multiracial Hoosiers reflect on 20 years of being counted

The Herald Bulletin
Anderson, Indiana
2020-09-12

Rebecca R. Bibbs


Brooke Watson plays catch with her daughters, Heaven, 11, and Angel, 14, in the front yard, above, and holds up a plant for her daughter, Heaven, 11, to water, below, at their north Anderson home. Parents of mixed-race people approach the subject of race in different ways. Some raise their children to ignore race as their personal effort to guide the nation toward a post-racial society; others cultivate their children’s multiracial identities, telling them they are the bridge between the races. Watson said her parents did the former.
Photos by John P. Cleary | The Herald Bulletin

INDIANAPOLISGerry Lanosga, whose mother is Dutch/German and father is Filipino and Nicaraguan, doesn’t quite remember which box he checked when he completed the 1990 census.

Though he thinks of himself as multiracial/multiethnic, the associate professor of journalism history and investigative reporting at The Media School at Indiana University in Bloomington does recall there really was no way at the time for him to reflect that.

So, against his real feelings regarding his racial and ethnic identity, Lanosga said, he likely reported to the U.S. government that he was white. It fit more closely with how he believes his family lived, but it was not a satisfying response to the question, he said.

“I do think given my particular mix of things, when people talk about whiteness, that’s me, but that’s also not me in some ways,” Lanosga explained.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the census, made things a little easier for people like Lanosga in late 1997 when it decided multiracial people would be allowed to check more than one race on the 2000 census…

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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