Long Time Passing

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-05-09 14:22Z by Steven

Long Time Passing

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times

Amy Finnerty

Baz Dreisinger, Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).

How black is Eminem? How white is our president? We can’t help asking these awkward questions as we digest “Near Black,” by Baz Dreisinger. A freelance journalist and an assistant professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, she explores cases of “reverse racial passing” — as distinct from the more conventional, black-as-white “passing,” for so long a feature of our tortured society. Presenting “narratives about white people who either envision themselves or are envisioned by others as being or becoming black,” and drawing on examples ranging from Twain’sPudd’nhead Wilson” to the sophomoric genre film “Soul Man,” she argues that the appropriation of black identity by whites — both literally and metaphorically — has been a potent strain in American culture for centuries.

The term “white passing” is broadly defined here. A white journalist with dyed skin infiltrating black precincts and writing about it is passing. So is a “jive-slanging” white D.J. A white immigrant sold into slavery in the early 19th century (a case of “coerced passing”) also has a place in Dreisinger’s compendium of racial mix-ups, satires and cautionary tales…

Read the entire review here.

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