I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-18 18:26Z by Steven

For some of us, racial identity is elastic. We can pass. For white, for black, for Middle Eastern. For Latinx. I am one of those people. I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

Lisa Page, “Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary,” Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press, May 10, 2018. http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2018/05/passing-or-transracial-authority-race-and-sex-in-the-rachel-dolezal-documentary.html.

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Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-05-18 15:32Z by Steven

Passing or Transracial?: Authority, Race, and Sex in the Rachel Dolezal Documentary

Beacon Broadside: A Project of Beacon Press
2018-05-10

Lisa Page, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Rachel Dolezal
Photo credit: YouTube/Dr. Phil

For some of us, racial identity is elastic. We can pass. For white, for black, for Middle Eastern. For Latinx. I am one of those people. I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black.

For this reason, my response to The Rachel Divide, Laura Brownson’s new documentary about Rachel Dolezal, is complicated. Dolezal famously passed for black, for years, before her white parents outed her in 2015. I feel two ways about this. I completely get the outrage that followed the reveal. But I also have sympathy for Dolezal. I know what it’s like to turn your back on the white side of your family.

The film opens with clips of Dolezal’s activism, as president of the Spokane NAACP, which came to a screeching halt once she was revealed to be a white woman who darkened her complexion and wore a weave.

Dolezal doesn’t call that passing.

“Who’s the gatekeeper for blackness?” she asks, near the beginning of the film. “Do we have the right to live exactly how we feel?”…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing and Being Passed Over in the United States

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-01-30 01:27Z by Steven

Passing and Being Passed Over in the United States

Los Angeles Review of Books
2017-12-15

Kavita Das

We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America
By Brando Skyhorse, Lisa Page
Published 10.10.2017
Beacon Press
216 Pages

IN THE YEARS preceding the 2016 presidential election, the “birther” movement that had dogged Barack Obama during his initial run for president raised its ugly head once again, revived by Donald Trump, a bombastic businessman/reality-show celebrity, and one of Obama’s most outspoken critics. Using the platform afforded to him as a rich and powerful white man, Trump made claims that Obama was not an American citizen, calling for him to prove otherwise by producing his birth certificate. This claim was made — and repeated often — despite the abundance of unassailable proof to the contrary.

Trump — and the rest of the “birther” movement — essentially accused President Obama of passing as an American citizen. According to Brando Skyhorse, co-editor of the new anthology We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America, passing is the “knowing decision about hiding or omitting one’s background to obtain acceptance into a community.” Skyhorse knows whereof he speaks since he acknowledges engaging in the practice himself. The phenomenon of passing is neither new nor unique to the United States. Age-old fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “The Little Mermaid” depict young women who pass as something other than their true selves in order to meet their Prince Charmings. Despite our country’s founding documents declaring that “all men are created equal,” endowed with rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” entrenched inequalities and stigmas associated with race, class, and sexuality have helped contribute to a long history of passing in the United States: African Americans and other people of color passing as white, poor people passing as affluent, LGBTQ individuals passing as straight…

Read the entire review here.

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Why Do People Pass?: The Complex Journeys of Belonging and Identity in America

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-27 03:13Z by Steven

Why Do People Pass?: The Complex Journeys of Belonging and Identity in America

Beacon Broadside
2017-11-07

Brando Skyhorse, Associate Professor of English
Indiana University, Bloomington

Lisa Page, Acting Director of Creative Writing
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


Image credit: Bob Kosturko

America has a long and complicated history of passing. We’re familiar with the stories of African Americans who passed as white in the past in order to improve their social mobility. Nowadays, we are hearing a variety of personal experiences about passing that transcends additional modes of identity—class, religion, gender, sexuality, and more. Writers Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page have brought together some of these stories in their new essay anthology We Wear the Mask: 15 True Stories of Passing in America. As they point out in the introduction of the book, excerpted below, there have always been many ways in which people pass, and many reasons to do so.

In June 2015 a surprising number of Americans stopped to gawk at a thirty-seven-year-old “African American” woman named Rachel Dolezal who, after an almost decade-long act, was outed by her parents as a white woman who chose to pass as black. The national response, culminating in a Today Show appearance, was extreme. Some were outraged by her deception, while others drew parallels between her right to live her “truth” the same way Caitlyn Jenner embodies hers.

Rachel—or “#BlackRachel” as she trended online—never once “broke character.”

Later that month, the Daily Beast reported on Andrea Smith, an Anglo woman and esteemed professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Riverside, who presented as Cherokee for over twenty years. She had a long history of American Indian activism and published articles and books purporting to speak on Indian issues as an American Indian despite not a trace of Indian ancestry being found after two rounds of genealogical research.

If you’re looking for historical precedent, how about jazz clarinetist Mezz Mezzrow? A middle-class Jewish kid from Chicago, he married a black woman, moved to Harlem, self-identified in the 1940s as a “white Negro” and was listed by his draft board as “Negro.” His understanding of being a black American was an odd brew of sincere cultural musical appreciation and promoting the oversimplified “shuck and jive” stereotypes. Go back further and you’ll find Clarence King, a nineteenth-century blue-eyed white scientist and best-selling author who thrilled in “slumming.” For thirteen years, King passed as a black Pullman porter, complete with a black common-law wife and five mixed-race children.

American history is filled with innumerable examples like these. Why, then, did “#BlackRachel” fascinate and outrage so many of us? The answer lies in the complex phenomenon of passing…

Read the entire article here.

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We Wear the Mask: 15 Stories about Passing in America

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Gay & Lesbian, History, Judaism, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Religion on 2017-10-17 01:52Z by Steven

We Wear the Mask: 15 Stories about Passing in America

Beacon Press
2017-10-10
224 Pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-080707898-3
Ebook ISBN 978-080707899-0
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 Inches

Edited by:

Brando Skyhorse, Associate Professor of English
Indiana University, Bloomington

Lisa Page, Acting Director of Creative Writing
George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Fifteen writers reveal their diverse experiences with passing, including racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender, and economic.

American history is filled with innumerable examples of “passing.” Why do people pass? The reasons are manifold: opportunity, access, safety, adventure, agency, fear, trauma, shame. Some pass to advance themselves or their loved ones to what they perceive is a better quality of life.

Edited by authors Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page, We Wear the Mask is a groundbreaking anthology featuring fifteen essays—fourteen of them original—that examine passing in multifaceted ways. Skyhorse, a Mexican American, writes about how his mother passed him as an American Indian before he gradually learned and accepted who—and what—he really is. Page writes about her mother passing as a white woman without a black ex-husband or biracial children. The anthology also includes essays by Marc Fitten, whose grandfather, a Chinese Jamaican, wanted to hide his name and ethnicity and for his children to pass as “colored” in the Caribbean; Achy Obejas, a queer Jewish Cuban woman who discovers that in Hawaii she is considered white. There’s M. G. Lord, who passes for heterosexual after her lesbian lover is killed; Patrick Rosal, who, without meaning to, “passes” as a waiter at the National Book Awards ceremony; and Sergio Troncoso, a Latino man, who passes for white at an internship on Capitol Hill. These and other compelling essays reveal the complex reality of passing in America.

Other contributors include:

  • Teresa Wiltz, who portrays how she navigated racial ambiguity while growing up in Staten Island, NY
  • Trey Ellis, the author of “The New Black Aesthetic,” who recollects his diverse experiences with passing in school settings
  • Margo Jefferson, whose parents invite her uncle, a light-complexioned black man, to dinner after he stops passing as white
  • Dolen Perkins-Valdez, who explores how the glorification of the Confederacy in the United States is an act of “historical passing”
  • Gabrielle Bellot, who feels the disquieting truths of passing as a woman in the world after coming out as trans
  • Clarence Page, who interrogates the phenomenon of “economic passing” in the context of race
  • Susan Golomb, a Jewish woman who reflects on the dilemma of having an identity that is often invisible
  • Rafia Zakaria, a woman who hides her Muslim American identity as a strategy to avoid surveillance at the airport
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We Wear The Mask: 15 Stories About Passing in America (edited by Brando Skyhorse & Lisa Page) [Review]

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-08-01 18:29Z by Steven

We Wear The Mask: 15 Stories About Passing in America (edited by Brando Skyhorse & Lisa Page) [Review]

Kirkus Reviews
2017-07-24

Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page (eds.), We Wear the Mask: 15 Stories about Passing in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017)

Writers explore how and why the phenomenon of “passing” both shocks and fascinates.

Skyhorse (English/Indiana Univ.; Take This Man, 2014, etc.) and Page (Creative Writing and English/George Washington Univ.) assemble a collection of 15 authentic narratives about how people attempt to “win access to the specific life they want, the ultimate form of assimilation, the pure embodiment of the American Dream,” by assuming to be a class or race they are inherently not. Both of the editors know this particular form of “reinvention” well and contribute their perspectives in highly personal essays. Skyhorse, who received his name from his mother “after my Mexican biological father abandoned us,” opens with reflections on how he, as a Mexican-American with the surname Ulloa, passed himself as an American Indian on his college applications. Page chronicles how her black great-grandmother passed for white in Mississippi in order to get a college education. The editors agree that “each of us sometimes employs misdirection to let someone jump to a different conclusion about who we are.” Racial passing also plays a key role in Achy Obejas’ tender recollection of how her Cuban-born father reinvented his “Third World soul” to create a better future for his family in America and in Marc Fitten’s excavation of his familial roots as an urgent preventative tool against diseases predisposed to Asian culture, which his great-grandfather went to great lengths to blur…

Read the entire review here.

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Racial Passing in American Life

Posted in History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2016-05-11 16:36Z by Steven

Racial Passing in American Life

The Hill Center
Washington, D.C.
2016-05-10

Lisa Page, Director of Creative Writing at The George Washington University, and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology, #Passing, moderates a discussion with Dr. Allyson Hobbs. Hobbs is an assistant professor of American history at Stanford University. She is the author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.

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The best fiction and poetry of 2010

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, New Media, United States, Women on 2010-12-14 22:12Z by Steven

The best fiction and poetry of 2010

The Washington Post
Friday, 2010-12-10

THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, by Heidi W. Durrow (Algonquin, $22.95). When several family members fall off the roof of a Chicago apartment building, the sole survivor is biracial Rachel, who goes to live with her grandmother in an African American neighborhood. –Lisa Page…

Read the entire article here.

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