On rare occasions, when my skin contrasts with a white shirt, or the humidity enhances the curliness of my hair, people might recognize me as the Black man that I am.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2021-08-31 14:12Z by Steven

I am a descendant of slaves and slave owners. My mixed heritage extends back as far as I can trace my ancestry. I have light beige skin, loosely curly brown hair, an angular nose, a small mouth, and brown almond-shaped eyes. I never know how others read my racially ambiguous appearance. On rare occasions, when my skin contrasts with a white shirt, or the humidity enhances the curliness of my hair, people might recognize me as the Black man that I am. Most of the time, they accept me as an ethnic variant of a broadly conceived whiteness. People are occasionally curious, and they try to press me for details.

Herb Harris, “I Was Expecting a Black Guy by Herb Harris,” Hippocampus Magazine, January 8, 2021. https://hippocampusmagazine.com/2021/01/i-was-expecting-a-black-guy-by-herb-harris/.

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I Was Expecting a Black Guy by Herb Harris

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2021-08-30 18:30Z by Steven

I Was Expecting a Black Guy by Herb Harris

Hippocampus Magazine: Memorable Creative Nonfiction
2021-01-08

Herb Harris

Peering over wire-rimmed glasses, the Vice President of Clinical Research looked directly at me for the first time since we sat down for the job interview and said, “I was expecting a Black guy.” There was no trace of humor in his comment.

At our greeting there had been a firm handshake, but no smile. Tall, portly, and balding, his presence conveyed gravitas and corporate seniority.

There was a long stretch of silence. I sat on a low uncomfortable couch, trying to maintain an impossible posture that appeared to be both relaxed and engaged. My back was aching from this contradiction, as I struggled to contain my shock at the inappropriate remark.

I had not been asked about race at any point in the application process. There had been no boxes to check, and no personal demographic information was ever requested. Whatever had created this expectation in the Vice President’s mind, he was disappointed. The person before him did not appear to be Black…

Read the entire article here.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Black Man

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2021-08-18 00:25Z by Steven

Portrait of the Artist as a Black Man

Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices
Summer 2021

Herb Harris
Arlington, Virginia

When you turn the corner
And you run into yourself
Then you know that you have turned
All the corners that are left

Langston Hughes

The more I stared at the drawing, the more alien and unrecognizable it became. I had labored over every line, but it was not the person I intended to draw. It began as a self portrait, but a stranger emerged who had been living somewhere within me. He was now crashing through the page.

I am a descendant of slaves and their owners. This contradiction manifests itself in every aspect of my physical appearance. My beige skin is light enough to pass as white. My angular nose and thin lips corroborate this story. My almond-shaped brown eyes are deep-set and give little clue to my identity. My hair might give me away, but its loose brown curls suggest to most people some vaguely white-ish ethnicity rather than an African origin. In general, people take in these details and read the whole as white. When I tell others that I am black, this usually requires a lengthy explanation that stretches back into little-known aspects of the history of slavery. I have to explain to people, who often seem to be hearing it for the first time, that sexual exploitation of slaves was so widespread that most black people in the United States today have some degree of European heritage. They generally imagine some version of a sanitized mythology that involves consensual romance.

“You mean like Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson?”

“No, I mean like rape.”…

Read the entire article here.

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