Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Passing on 2022-01-12 17:14Z by Steven

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past

ACMRS Press
June 2022
160 pages
6″ x 9″
Hardcover ISBN: 9780866986946

Margo Hendricks, Professor Emerita
University of California, Santa Cruz

This study brings race and the literary tradition of romance into dialogue.

Romance and Race: Coloring the Past explores the literary and cultural genealogy of colorism, white passing, and white presenting in the romance genre. The scope of the study ranges from Heliodorus’ Aithiopika to the short novels of Aphra Behn, to the modern romance novel Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins. This analysis engages with the troublesome racecraft of “passing” and the instability of racial identity and its formation from the premodern to the present. The study also looks at the significance of white settler colonialism to early modern romance narratives. A bridge between studies of early modern romance and scholarship on twenty-first-century romance novels, this book is well-suited for those interested in the romance genre.

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Brit Bennett’s novel ‘The Vanishing Half’ combines fiction, history in examining passing

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-08 20:49Z by Steven

Brit Bennett’s novel ‘The Vanishing Half’ combines fiction, history in examining passing

The Columbus Dispatch
Columbus, Ohio
2021-12-05

Nancy Gilson, Special to The Columbus Dispatch


Brit Bennett Miranda Barnes

In Brit Bennett’s novel “The Vanishing Half,” light-skinned African American twin sisters are separated when one of them decides to pass as white, leaving her family behind.

The novel, which delves deeply into the concept of identity, was a New York Times best-seller and designated as one of the newspaper’s best books of 2020.

Bennett, 31, who grew up in southern California, attended Stanford University and the University of Michigan and now lives in New York. She published her debut novel, “The Mothers,” in 2016. She has written numerous essays, including “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People” and “Addy Walker, An American Girl,” about the Pleasant Company’s first Black doll.

These days, Bennett is working on her third novel and occasionally appears in public events, mostly virtual, such as her event Sunday presented by the Columbus Metropolitan Library. She spoke recently by telephone with The Dispatch…

Read the entire interview here.

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Passing Is a Film About Race from the Black Gaze

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-02 17:39Z by Steven

Passing Is a Film About Race from the Black Gaze

Harper’s Bazaar
2021-11-11

Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies
Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey


Netflix

Rebecca Hall’s adaptation of Passing expertly uses the craft of cinema to explore race and colorism from a Black point of view, Imani Perry argues.

Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, Passing, was part of a tradition. Writers, both Black and white, had been depicting the practice of extremely light-complexioned African Americans slipping into the white world for at least 70 years prior. Passing literature is the term critics have applied to it. In a racially segregated and stratified society, passing was powerful fodder for the literary imagination. Being discovered came with the risk of shame, violence, incarceration, and even death. In Black communities, passing itself was at once frowned upon and protected, as the secrets of passers were guarded.

Understandably, depicting passing today, when the rules of racial membership have shifted, is challenging. Members of Generation Z are skeptical of the historic “one-drop rule” of African-American membership. Initially, that rule was a way of marking Blackness as inferiority and even a sort of contagion. Over time, African Americans used it to develop an expansive idea of what it meant to belong to “the race.” But today, young people often wonder how much one can claim to belong to a group without carrying the weight of being seen as such.

Director Rebecca Hall, who adapted the 1929 novel for the screen nevertheless succeeds in making a film that brings contemporary viewers into the intimate realm of its Black women protagonists, both of whom “pass”; one completely, the other conditionally. Most impressively, Hall captures the tensions of passing in a manner that is effective in the 21st century. Whereas the novella is a masterpiece of sumptuous yet suggestive prose, the black-and-white film’s luxuriousness is found in texture, light, and gesture. Hall avoids a problem that all too often afflicts Black actors. When directors fail to shift light appropriately, bodies that are luminous too often are made muddy and shapeless. Hall’s effective light is not just visually satisfying; it is a narrative tool…

Read the entire review here.

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Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

Posted in Africa, Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery on 2021-11-29 03:10Z by Steven

Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

Harvard University Press
2022-03-22
320 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
21 photos, 1 table
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674244269

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alfonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor; Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Andrew S. Curran, William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities
Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut

The first translation and publication of sixteen submissions to the notorious eighteenth-century Bordeaux essay contest on the cause of “black” skin—an indispensable chronicle of the rise of scientifically based, anti-Black racism.

In 1739 Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences announced a contest for the best essay on the sources of “blackness.” What is the physical cause of blackness and African hair, and what is the cause of Black degeneration, the contest announcement asked. Sixteen essays, written in French and Latin, were ultimately dispatched from all over Europe. The authors ranged from naturalists to physicians, theologians to amateur savants. Documented on each page are European ideas about who is Black and why.

Looming behind these essays is the fact that some four million Africans had been kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic by the time the contest was announced. The essays themselves represent a broad range of opinions. Some affirm that Africans had fallen from God’s grace; others that blackness had resulted from a brutal climate; still others emphasized the anatomical specificity of Africans. All the submissions nonetheless circulate around a common theme: the search for a scientific understanding of the new concept of race. More important, they provide an indispensable record of the Enlightenment-era thinking that normalized the sale and enslavement of Black human beings.

These never previously published documents survived the centuries tucked away in Bordeaux’s municipal library. Translated into English and accompanied by a detailed introduction and headnotes written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Andrew Curran, each essay included in this volume lays bare the origins of anti-Black racism and colorism in the West.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: Who’s Black and Why?
  • Note on the Translations
  • I
    • Introduction: The 1741 Contest on the “Degeneration” of Black Skin and Hair
    • 1. Blackness through the Power of God
    • 2. Blackness through the Soul of the Father
    • 3. Blackness through the Maternal Imagination
    • 4. Blackness as a Moral Defect
    • 5. Blackness as a Result of the Torrid Zone
    • 6. Blackness as a Result of Divine Providence
    • 7. Blackness as a Result of Heat and Humidity
    • 8. Blackness as a Reversible Accident
    • 9. Blackness as a Result of Hot Air and Darkened Blood
    • 10. Blackness as a Result of a Darkened Humor
    • 11. Blackness as a Result of Blood Flow
    • 12. Blackness as an Extension of Optical Theory
    • 13. Blackness as a Result of an Original Sickness
    • 14. Blackness Degenerated
    • 15. Blackness Classified
    • 16. Blackness Dissected
  • II
    • Introduction: The 1772 Contest on “Preserving” Negroes
    • 1. A Slave Ship Surgeon on the Crossing
    • 2. A Parisian Humanitarian on the Slave Trade
    • 3. Louis Alphonse, Bordeaux Apothecary, on the Crossing
  • Select Chronology of the Representation of Africans and Race
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Credits
  • Index
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Majority of Latinos Say Skin Color Impacts Opportunity in America and Shapes Daily Life

Posted in Census/Demographics, Economics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Reports, Social Science, United States on 2021-11-05 01:18Z by Steven

Majority of Latinos Say Skin Color Impacts Opportunity in America and Shapes Daily Life

Pew Research Center
Washington, D.C.
2021-11-04
63 pages

Latinos with darker skin color report more discrimination experiences than Latinos with lighter skin color

The perceived impact of skin color in the lives of U.S. Latinos is broad. From impacting their ability to get ahead in the country to shaping their daily life experiences to dealing with discrimination, skin color is seen by Latinos as an important factor affecting their lives and life chances.

A majority (62%) of Hispanic adults say having a darker skin color hurts Hispanics’ ability to get ahead in the United States today at least a little. A similar share (59%) say having a lighter skin color helps Hispanics get ahead. And 57% say skin color shapes their daily life experiences a lot or some, with about half saying discrimination based on race or skin color is a “very big problem” in the U.S. today, according to Pew Research Center’s National Survey of Latinos, a bilingual, national survey of 3,375 Hispanic U.S. adults conducted in March 2021.

Colorism is a form of discrimination based on skin color, usually, though not always, favoring lighter skin color over darker skin color within a racial or ethnic group. While it can be tied to racism, it is not necessarily the same. (Racism is prejudice directed at members of a racial or ethnic group because of their origin.) For example, Hispanics in the U.S. may face discrimination because they are Hispanic (a form of racism), but the degree of discrimination may vary based on skin color, with those of darker shades experiencing more incidents (a form of colorism). And because of colorism’s deep roots in the histories of Latin America and the United States, discrimination based on skin color can occur among Hispanics just as much as it can be directed at Hispanics by non-Hispanics.

To measure this dimension of Latino identity in the United States, the survey asked respondents to identify the skin color that best resembled their own using a version of the Yadon-Ostfeld skin-color scale. Respondents were shown ten skin colors that ranged from fair to dark (see text box below for the images and scale used). Fully 80% of Latino adults selected a color between one and four, or lighter skin colors, while 15% selected a color between five and ten on the scale, or darker skin colors.1

Table of Contents

  • Majority of Latinos Say Skin Color Impacts Opportunity in America and Shapes Daily Life
    • Discrimination and skin color
    • Impact of race, skin color is a topic of conversation with relatives and friends for Hispanics
    • Half of Latinos say there is too little national attention on racial issues concerning Latino people
    • Hispanics often hear other Hispanics make racially insensitive comments and jokes about Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike
    • While Hispanics say skin color affects their ability to get ahead in America, other factors are seen as important as well
    • For Latinos, discrimination experiences and views about skin color and race are linked
  • 1. Half of U.S Latinos experienced some form of discrimination during the first year of the pandemic
  • 2. For many Latinos, skin color shapes their daily life and affects opportunity in America
  • 3. Latinos divided on whether race gets too much or too little attention in the U.S. today
  • 4. Measuring the racial identity of Latinos
  • Acknowledgments
  • Methodology
  • Appendix: Additional tables

Read the entire report in PDF or HTML format.

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The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-20 13:28Z by Steven

The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity

The New York Times Magazine
2021-10-20

Alexandra Kleeman, Assistant Professor of Writing
The New School, New York, New York

Rebecca Hall Carly Zavala for The New York Times

Rebecca Hall’s new film adaptation of the 1929 novel “Passing” has cracked open a public conversation about colorism and privilege.

When Rebecca Hall read Nella Larsen’s groundbreaking 1929 novel, “Passing,” over a decade ago, she felt an intense, immediate attachment to it. The story seemed to clarify so much that was mysterious about her own identity — the unnameable gaps in her family history that shaped her life in their very absence, the way a sinkhole in the road distorts the path of traffic blocks away.

The novel follows Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, two light-skinned Black women who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood and shared a friendship complicated by differences in class and social status. When Clare’s father died, she was sent off to live with white relatives, while Irene went on to become firmly ensconced in the vibrant Black artistic and cultural community of 1920s Harlem, wife to a Black doctor and mother to two dark-skinned young boys. One day, while passing for convenience on the rooftop restaurant of a whites-only hotel, Irene is recognized by a beautiful blond woman, who turns out to be Clare — who now not only lives her life as a white woman but is also mother to a white-passing daughter and married to a bigoted man who has no clue about her mixed-race heritage. The friends’ reunion crackles with tension, charged with curiosity, envy and longing.

When Clare asks Irene if she has ever thought about passing in a more permanent way herself, Irene responds disdainfully: “No. Why should I?” She adds, “You see, Clare, I’ve everything I want.” And maybe it’s true that the respectable, high-status life Irene has built in Harlem encompasses everything a serious woman, committed to lifting up her race, should want. But Clare’s sudden presence begins to raise a sense of dangerous possibility within Irene — one of unacknowledged desires and dissatisfactions. When she sees the ease with which Clare re-enters and ingratiates herself within Black society, it threatens Irene’s feeling of real, authentic belonging.

Raised in England within the elite circles of classical theater, Hall, who is 39, had her first introduction to the concept of racial “passing” in the pages of Larsen’s novel. “I was spending time in America, and I knew that there had been vague, but I mean really vague, talk about my mother’s ethnicity,” Hall explained over the phone this spring. Her voice is calm and poised, with a warm polish to it, and she tends to speak in composed paragraphs. Over the year that we had corresponded, Hall hadn’t been acting much and had instead spent time writing screenplays from the Hudson Valley home that she shares with her daughter and her husband, the actor Morgan Spector. “Sometimes she would intimate that maybe there was African American ancestry, or sometimes she would intimate that there was Indigenous ancestry. But she didn’t really know; it wasn’t available to her.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Problem of the Prism: Racial Passing, Colorism, and the Politics of Racial Visibility

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-20 13:10Z by Steven

The Problem of the Prism: Racial Passing, Colorism, and the Politics of Racial Visibility

University of Maryland
2020
DOI: 10.13016/kkbp-vio4

DeLisa Hawkes

In The Problem of the Prism, I argue that activist writers challenged the normalizing of white supremacy and imagined black futurity within the intersections of racial visibility, nation, and culture by transforming and repurposing racist and colorist ideologies. Through a wide range of cultural materials, I recuperate overlooked discourses on race and color by broadening the parameters through which we understand the black-white color line.

Focusing on neglected texts by understudied authors allows for a deeper consideration of how assumed ancestry and legal segregation impact America’s construction of citizenship and social hierarchies. For this reason, I consider how critical attention to skin complexion and visible ancestry illuminates institutionalized feelings of inferiority. I call these the politics of racial visibility. In the first chapter, I consider Albion Tourgée’s 1890 novel Pactolus Prime and the ways in which it offers readers an examination of how the black-white color line fosters notions of inferiority within both races.

In chapter two, I argue that Sutton Griggs inspires the “New Mulatta,” a revision of the “tragic mulatta” trope, that inspires race pride throughout the Black Diaspora by rejecting colorist ideologies. In chapter three, I recover the works of Olivia Ward Bush-Banks and Sylvester “Chief Buffalo Child” Long Lance as critical lenses through which to deconstruct black separatism by considering African-Native American identities within New Negro philosophy. I argue that their works reconceptualize the “tragic mulatta/o” outside of the confines of the black-white binary while acknowledging the fraught relationship between African Americans and Native Americans. Thus, their works reveal a black-red color line that disables anti-racist and anti-colonialist collaboration. In the final chapter, I argue that 1940s and 1950s Ebony magazine articles shift readers’ attention to racial anxieties within the “white” appearing spectrum of the black-white color line to critique internalized racism. By addressing social implications anticipated within racial ambiguity in the space of the home, this commercial magazine allows readers from all socioeconomic backgrounds to engage with pressing concerns over racial visibility. Ultimately, Ebony magazine’s persistent focus on colorism and racial passing brings the efforts of nineteenth and early-twentieth-century authors full circle.

Login to read the dissertation here.

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Confronting Anti-Blackness in “Colorblind” Cuba

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2021-10-11 17:55Z by Steven

Confronting Anti-Blackness in “Colorblind” Cuba

Sapiens
2021-09-02

Elizabeth Obregón, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology
University of Illinois, Chicago

A man holds his grandson inside the doorway of a fruit and vegetable shop in Havana, Cuba. Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images

In the 1960s, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Communist government claimed to have eradicated racism in Cuba. An anthropologist explores how racial hierarchies persist despite these official narratives, shaping family dynamics and significantly limiting opportunities for Afro-Cubans.

I sat waiting for Yudell* to finish his shift at the paladar, or small-scale private restaurant, in the central Vedado neighborhood in Havana. I’d already interviewed a few of the workers there. As I bided my time at a corner table on the outdoor patio, two of the waiters began to tease Yudell, yelling across to me, “Don’t believe what he says! He will probably tell you that he is Negro because he is a racist!”

Yudell timidly looked at me across the patio and chuckled. Growing up Cuban American, I had been to Cuba on past occasions to visit family, but this time I was there to conduct ethnographic interviews on processes of racialization for my dissertation in anthropology. I knew from experience that I had to tread carefully when entering conversations about race in Cuba.

In Cuba, a place where the revolutionary Communist government has claimed to have eliminated racial inequality, directly speaking of race is more than taboo; it is counterrevolutionary.

When we sat down for our interview a little later, Yudell proudly described himself exactly as his co-workers had said he would: “I am Negro” (a Black man). We talked about the persistence of colorism in Cuba, a system of discrimination based on skin color. Yudell chose not to self-identify as a Mulato (a mixed-race person) or a Moro (a dark-skinned person with a thin nose and “good hair”), since he saw such taken-for-granted racialized categories as a way for individuals to distance themselves from Blackness…

Read the entire article here.

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Choosing Blackness

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2021-09-20 15:18Z by Steven

Choosing Blackness

The Philadelphia Inquirer
2021-09-15

Elizabeth Wellington, Staff Columnist


Columnist Elizabeth Wellington poses for a photograph with her mother Margaret outside of the family home in New York. MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Black identity is usually wrapped up in not having choice. My family used their light-skinned privilege to flip that choice and turned Blackness into a celebration of pride and identity and love.

I thought my mother was a white woman until I was about five years old.

So I will never forget the day she told me she was Black. The conversation started simple enough: I described someone on television as white, like she was.

If um, hell to the no was a person, she would have been Margaret Wellington in that moment.

My mother is so fair that whether she styled her hair in a Pam Grier-esque, mega Afro or a blonde-streaked press and curl, she was sometimes mistaken for a white woman. I’m sure she wasn’t surprised by my question given my milk chocolate hue. But she wasn’t angry. She settled into her rocking chair and motioned for me to sit next to her. We were wearing matching green cardigans. I may have been darker, but to her, I was still her toddler-sized replica. She took my chubby little hand into her slender one, and looking me in the eye said, “Beth, I’m Black.”

Clearly I looked confused. Because she said it again. This time with more soul. “I AM BLACK. I do not have the same pretty brown skin that you have. But I AM BLACK. And I am YOUR MOTHER.”

My 5-year-old self was relieved….

Read the entire article here.

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What Does It Mean To Be Latino? The ‘Light-Skinned Privilege’ Edition

Posted in Audio, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-21 03:46Z by Steven

What Does It Mean To Be Latino? The ‘Light-Skinned Privilege’ Edition

Code Switch
National Public Radio
2021-07-14

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Co-host/ Senior Producer

Kumari Devarajan, Producer

Leah Donnella, Editor


Maria Hinojosa (left) and Maria Garcia.
Krystal Quiles for NPR

Maria Garcia and Maria Hinojosa are both Mexican American, both mestiza, and both relatively light-skinned. But Maria Hinojosa strongly identifies as a woman of color, whereas Maria Garcia has stopped doing so. So in this episode, we’re asking: How did they arrive at such different places? To find out, listen to our latest installment in this series about what it means to be Latino.

Listen to the story (00:37:15) here.

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