The ability to pass oneself off as white—to choose between living with their existing identity or adopt the dominant racial identity—is the most extreme colorism privilege.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2019-07-29 14:19Z by Steven

The ability to pass oneself off as white—to choose between living with their existing identity or adopt the dominant racial identity—is the most extreme colorism privilege. It’s not an option to which the vast majority of black Americans has access. In an ethnic group in which “selling out” or being an “Uncle Tom” are major taboos, it’d be understandable if the discussion of passing focused on the supreme selfishness of the act. Passing is, at its essence, abandonment of the group to better the individual. And yet, the intra-community discussion about passing tends to avoid the question of the morality of the act. Instead, within the black community, family passing stories often serve other purposes: as a way of emphasizing the absurdity of race; as an example of a family’s access to the privileges of colorism; as a trickster performance of the ultimate racial transgression.

Mat Johnson, “Passing, in Moments,” Topic Magazine, Issue Number 25: Journeys (July 2019). https://www.topic.com/passing-in-moments.

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Passing, in Moments

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-07-29 00:07Z by Steven

Passing, in Moments

Topic Magazine
Issue No. 25, Journeys
July 2019

Mat Johnson

The uneasy existence of being black and passing for white.

When I was 12, my Aunt Margaret told me, “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them.”

Aunt Margaret was black, but if you said “black” and not “colored,” she would go off on you. I was black too—still am—but I look white. Or I look whitish; it depends on the viewer. My father’s white and my mother is black, but high yellow and racially ambiguous. Though my mom insisted I was black too, I found a strong argument against that every time I looked in the mirror. And I grew up cut off from my extended black family, which just added to that feeling of disconnection. Sometimes I’d tell other kids I was black, and until they saw my mom, they wouldn’t believe me.

One time I told Aunt Margaret, “Nobody at school knows I’m black—”

“Colored.”

“Nobody at school knows I’m colored.”

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. That’s when she said it, holding one of my flaccid brown curls in her hand like it was a piece of gold. “You got straight hair, you got pale skin. If people don’t know you’re colored, don’t tell them!”

At 12 years old, I thought Aunt Margaret was confused. I thought her response was antiquated, ridiculously old-fashioned, like how she insisted on using the word “colored” instead of “black.” I thought it was cute. I thought it was funny.

At 19, radical as all undergraduates should be, I thought that, despite how much I loved Aunt Margaret, that she was a color-struck sellout for telling me to live my life as a white man. That, in essence, she was encouraging me to abandon my roots, to reject the black community, in exchange for complete access to white privilege.

At 49, I think she told me what she told me because she loved me. Because she’d been black in America for 80-some years and she didn’t want me to have to endure the way she did. That she wanted the safety of whiteness for me. That she wanted me to thrive, but also to have the full force of America’s wind at my back, instead of getting hit with it head-on.

That Aunt Margaret was expressing what generations of black mothers sometimes told white-appearing children, particularly boys: escape from blackness for your survival.

(And, also, she was color-struck.)…

Read the entire article here.

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February 20, 2018 – Lacey Schwartz & Mat Johnson

Posted in Census/Demographics, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2018-02-22 01:20Z by Steven

February 20, 2018 – Lacey Schwartz & Mat Johnson

The Opposition with Jordan Klepper
Comedy Central
2018-02-20

Jordan Klepper, Host

Jordan offers advice to civic-minded teens, talks the #NeverAgain movement with student activists, and chats with Lacey Schwartz and Mat Johnson of “The Loving Generation.”

Watch the episode (00:21:15) here.

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And today it’s to the point where when I walk into a place and people see or hear me, people assume I’m mixed because mixed identity EXISTS.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-20 03:52Z by Steven

“I think the generation after me was really the beginning of people openly embracing the idea of mixed identity. And today it’s to the point where when I walk into a place and people see or hear me, people assume I’m mixed because mixed identity exists. Because it didn’t exist in the public consciousness in the past, people would look at me like I was this wild, mutant creature.” —Mat Johnson

Charles Pulliam-Moore, “Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White,” Gizmodo, February 12, 2018. https://io9.gizmodo.com/incognegro-renaissance-author-mat-johnson-talks-about-1822834011.

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Incognegro: Renaissance #1

Posted in Articles, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2018-02-20 03:31Z by Steven

Incognegro: Renaissance #1

Dark Horse Comics
2018-02-07
32 pages
b&w, Miniseries
UPC: 7 61568 00235 5 00111

Writer: Mat Johnson
Artist: Warren Pleece
Editor: Karen Berger

After a black writer is found dead at a scandalous interracial party in 1920s New York, Harlem’s cub reporter Zane Pinchback is the only one determined to solve the murder. Zane must go ”incognegro” for the first time–using his light appearance to pass as a white man–to find the true killer, in this prequel miniseries to the critically acclaimed Vertigo graphic novel, now available in a special new 10th Anniversary Edition.

With a cryptic manuscript as his only clue, and a mysterious and beautiful woman as the murder’s only witness, Zane finds himself on the hunt through the dark and dangerous streets of ”roaring twenties” Harlem in search for justice.

A page-turning thriller of racial divide, Incognegro: Renaissance explores segregation, secrets, and self-image as our race-bending protagonist penetrates a world where he feels stranger than ever before.

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Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-02-20 03:12Z by Steven

Incognegro: Renaissance Author Mat Johnson Talks About Living a Black Life With Skin That Can Look White

Comics
Gizmodo
2018-02-12

Charles Pulliam-Moore


Dark Horse

In Dark Horse’s Incognegro: Renaissance, Zane Pinchback—a young black journalist and New York transplant by way of Tupelo, Mississippi—finds himself smack dab in the middle of Harlem at the height of its Renaissance during the 1920s. Zane, like Incognegro: Renaissance creator Mat Johnson, is a black man with a light enough complexion that people are sometimes unsure or entirely unaware of his race.

To those who know him, Zane’s identity isn’t a question, but for many of the new people he encounters in New York—particularly the white ones—Zane is able to pass as white, and thus move through certain spaces that other black people can’t. Drawn by Warren Pleece, Incognegro: Renaissance opens on a very taboo and illegal book party in Harlem where black and white people co-mingle as the champagne flows freely.

When a black guest suddenly turns up dead of an apparent suicide, the authorities show up on the scene to shut the gathering down, but have zero interest in investigating whether the death may be a homicide because the man is black. Realizing that his ability to pass (and willingness to do work others won’t) might allow him to dig deeper into the potential crime, Zane sets out on a mission to uncover the truth.

When I spoke with Johnson recently about his inspiration for the new series, he explained that much of the core premise is based on his own experiences and a life-long love of Walter Francis White, the civil rights activist who was the head of the NAACP from 1931 to 1955. But what Johnson really wants readers to get out of the series, he said, was a better understanding of the fact that identity in all its forms is fluid…

Read the entire interview here.

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“Black Matters”: Race and Literary History in Mat Johnson’s Pym

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-12-23 03:35Z by Steven

“Black Matters”: Race and Literary History in Mat Johnson’s Pym

European Journal of American Studies
11-1 | 2016 : Special Issue: Intimate Frictions: History and Literature in the United States from the 19th to the 21st Century

Jennifer M. Wilks, Associate Professor of English
University of Texas, Austin

After being denied tenure for expanding his teaching of race and literary history beyond exclusively African American texts, Chris Jaynes, the protagonist of Mat Johnson’s novel Pym (2011), sets out to retrace the voyage from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. This essay examines how Johnson uses Jaynes’ own shipwreck—he and his crew are stranded in Antarctica—to posit the history of race in the United States as a national disaster that overdetermines contemporary social dynamics. Using intertextuality and satire, Johnson follows Toni Morrison’s precedent in depicting blackness and whiteness as constructs that are inextricably bound and that cannot be understood one without the other. Central to this claim are Johnson’s mirroring of the progressive, 21st-century African American Jaynes with his narrative foil: the pickled, ancient Anglo American Arthur Gordon Pym. I contend that Johnson not only revisits Morrison’s argument but also expands upon it; for, as Jaynes and his fellow characters confront the thorny legacy of race and racism in the United States, they must also face a future in which the country’s changing demographics will render questions of identity more, rather than less, complicated.

Read the entire article here.

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Creighton hosts two-day event to commemorate Loving v. Virginia ruling

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-28 15:46Z by Steven

Creighton hosts two-day event to commemorate Loving v. Virginia ruling

News Center
Creighton University, Omaha Nebraska
2017-03-27


Mat Johnson

Race. Identity. Relationships. Power. These were the main themes in last week’s two-day event, “50 Years of Loving: Seeking Justice Through Love and Relationships,” hosted by Creighton University’s 2040 Initiative and the Werner Institute. More than 150 people participated in the event.

Loving v. Virginia is a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. The case involved Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a black woman. They were charged in Virginia with the felony of miscegenation – or mixing races – and were told their marriage was invalid.

Creighton’s two-day event kicked off last Thursday with a talk by Mat Johnson, author of the 2015 book Loving Day. Semi-autobiographical in nature, Johnson read passages from his book and spoke about his own upbringing and struggles with race and identity…

Read the entire article here.

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50 Years of Loving: Seeking Justice Through Love and Relationships

Posted in Law, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-19 02:11Z by Steven

50 Years of Loving: Seeking Justice Through Love and Relationships

Creighton University | Werner Institute | 2040 Initiative
Omaha, Nebraska
2017-03-23, 17:30 through 2017-03-24, 17:00 CDT (Local Time)

Loving v. Virginia – Background

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia ended legal prohibitions against interracial marriage in the U.S. By eliminating longstanding legal sanctions against “miscegenation,” Loving disrupted the pre-existing social system. The ruling rejected racial separation and hierarchy and endorsed relationships across previously uncrossable racial lines.

The effects of Loving marriages extend beyond those who are themselves married. Since Loving, the proportion of the U.S. population with multiple racial heritages has grown dramatically. Moreover, the children born as a result of Loving have disrupted the social construction of race itself, with more people self-identifying as of more than one race, biracial, multiracial, or mixed.

50 Years of Loving – Symposium Description

The symposium will begin with a feature presentation open to the public on Thursday, March 23, by Mat Johnson, author of the novel “Loving Day” (2015). Symposium participants will then explore the effects that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia has had on U.S. society – institutionally, demographically and relationally. Participants will also develop strategies for moving from thought to action by building relationships across difference…

For more information, click here.

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On passing, wishing for darker skin, and finding your people: A conversation between two mulattos

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-08-23 21:41Z by Steven

On passing, wishing for darker skin, and finding your people: A conversation between two mulattos

Fusion
2015-06-15

Collier Meyerson

In 10th grade, I auditioned for the role of Julie in the musical Show Boat, one of the most famous portrayals of the tragic mulatto trope. I was cast, instead, as Queenie, the mammy. I deserved the part of Julie. I had a good singing voice. But there were no black people in my school to play the part of Queenie.

My first personal tragic mulatto moment.

Playing the mammy in Show Boat made me realize something my black mother had always told me and I never believed: the world did not see me as Julie, trying to manage two different backgrounds. It saw me as black. Specifically, white people saw me as black.

On Wednesday, I spoke with Mat Johnson, the author of Loving Day, a new novel that explores the mulatto experience—one that Johnson sees as a subset of the black experience. And one that the United States didn’t recognize until 2000, the first year the Census collected data on people of more than one race…

CM: I don’t personally pass as white. And I’ve always wondered about others who can. Do you ever choose to intentionally pass as white?

MJ: Every single time I get pulled over by a cop. And I feel guilty as I’m doing it, but you have never met a whiter man than me pulled over by a police officer. I mean, I sound like Gomer Pyle.

When I moved to New York I wondered what would happen if I stopped playing up my black identity. And I basically just let that go. I didn’t cut my hair in a way to look blacker. Didn’t have facial hair in a way that made me look blacker. I wore clothes that were more ethnically generic, just generally bland preppy. And I went through this whole period. It was maybe like a month where I just let that disappear…

Read the entire interview here.

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