Because She Can: The Unbearable Whiteness of Jessie

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-13 01:25Z by Steven

Because She Can: The Unbearable Whiteness of Jessie

The Crisis
2020-09-09

TaRessa Stovall

I’m a mixed (Black, Jewish, Native American) boomer, very light-skinned and so racially ambiguous looking that most people question, assume and try to challenge my racial identity.

My copper-toned Black father hated that I wouldn’t exploit my appearance to “be anything.” My Russian Jewish mother wondered about my lifelong allegiance to Blackness and my stubborn insistence on conveying the messy totality of my DNA even when it wasn’t comfortable, advantageous or convenient.

Still, I never lied about my identity. Even when doing so might have made my life easier.

We’re familiar with the reasons that many Black people passed for white, especially in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras — as a way to lessen oppression and “level up” to better opportunities. But why would a white person discard their privilege to pretend to be Black?

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Passing Revisited: Racial Passing and White Supremacy

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-13 00:34Z by Steven

Passing Revisited: Racial Passing and White Supremacy

Medium
2020-09-04

Jennifer Rittner

In the wake of the white supremacist marches in 2017, I wrote a short reflection on racial passing. In that essay I wrote about my Black mother, my white son, and the absurd mythologies of racial purity needed by white supremacists to support their beliefs. Those marchers surely counted among them many who had direct African American heritage as a result of near ancestors who had passed for white in the inhospitable environments of legal slavery and Jim Crow.

The White Supremacy of Masquerading as Black

White supremacy rears its head again in another form of passing, as men and women who have grown up as white children in white families have taken to masquerading as Black adults in order to achieve personal success as race warriors. Jessica Krug and Rachel Dolezal, two sisters-in-deceit, both manipulated their ways to success by passing as a Black woman, and in the process, denying actual women of color the opportunities they took for themselves. Their behavior should cause us to reflect on our United States of Racial Anxiety as we are all, in fact, oppressed by our nation’s historical, collective weaponization of race. While adamantly censuring both of these women, we can use their deceptions as opportunities to reflect on how the social conditions we construct and perpetuate demand certain forms of racial authenticity, often built on the anxieties we all feel about passing as something.

First, two resources for anyone interested in the history of passing:

Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life is a well-researched and beautiful read on the topic. James Baldwin, Another Country was one of the first books in which I felt seen around the question of passing as a social act…

Read the entire article here.

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Jessica Krug and the theft of Black Latina identity.

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2020-09-11 01:34Z by Steven

Jessica Krug and the theft of Black Latina identity.

Daily Kos
2020-09-05

Denise Oliver Velez


Professor Jessica A. Krug, a white woman from Kansas, who has been passing herself off as an Afro-Latina
Professor Jessica Krug, panelist, Diasporic Politics panel Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS) 25th Anniversary Conference, Friday , Columbia University, April 26, 2019

We all know what identity theft is, in a world filled with cyber crimes. We’ve all watched horror films with body snatchers as the main villains. Things become far more complicated when we address the issue of humans who, for a host of warped reasons, assume a false racial or ethnic identity.

Such is the case of Professor Jessica A. Krug, who is currently an Associate Professor of African American history at George Washington University. Krug has for years portrayed herself as Black, and Afro-Latina, while publishing her academic work, receiving grant funding, teaching and also acting as a Afro-Latina political activist from the Bronx under the pseudonym “Jess La Bombalera,” all the while hiding her real self — a white woman from Kansas City.

Her exposure as a fraud, has unleashed a firestorm of pushback on social media and in academia, similar to the exposure of black-passing Rachel Dolezal in 2015…

Read the entire article here.

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Freedom and Frustration: Rachel Dolezal and the Meaning of Race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2019-08-18 22:12Z by Steven

Freedom and Frustration: Rachel Dolezal and the Meaning of Race

Contexts
Volume: 18 issue: 3
pages 36-41
DOI: 10.1177/1536504219864957

Chinyere Osuji, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

In the United States, people often discuss how the burgeoning multi-racial population and immigrants from Asia and Latin America are forcing us to call into question what we know about racial and ethnic categories. This argument, however, takes for granted that being Black or White, categories at the poles, are unproblematic distinctions. This perspective essentializes Blackness and Whiteness as commonsense phenomena. They are anything but. The meanings of who is White and who is Black in the United States have shifted over centuries, and who gets slotted into what category changes across societies.

A couple of years ago, the media became fascinated with Rachel Dolezal, a woman born naturally to White parents, who identified as a Black woman. At a time when transgender issues were becoming salient, news media posed what seemed to them an obvious question: is it possible to be born White and become Black the same way it was possible to be born with male sex organs and become female? Although Dolezal never used the term “transracial” to identify herself, she reminded us that race is a social construction, something many people understand as fake and baseless. On these grounds, Dolezal decided that she would wear Black hairstyles, spend time in Black communities, date and marry Black men, lead a chapter of a historically Black organization, and supposedly leave Whiteness behind. This infuriated many people, especially African Americans.

When Rachel Dolezal made international news, my friends in Brazil did not understand the commotion. “What’s going on? Who is this woman?” they asked.

I understood some of their confusion…

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Rethinking Transracialism: Ariana Grande and Racial Ambiguity

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-06-03 17:34Z by Steven

Rethinking Transracialism: Ariana Grande and Racial Ambiguity

Cult Plastic: Dance And Culture In The Plastic Age
2019-02-19

Anh Vo


Ariana Grande from the 2018 Billboard Woman of the Year Cover Shoot

This article revisits, revises, and expands on the arguments I make in Blackface and Pop Princesses: A Brief Genealogy. Previously, I wrote three brief paragraphs on Ariana Grande, trying to position her donning of black and brown visuality (i.e. blackface/brownface) alongside similar practices of other pop princesses such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Miley Cyrus. However, I no longer think blackface as a phenomenon can quite account for how Grande is manipulating the racial ambiguity of her image. Even though she certainly inherits the history of pop princesses borrowing the cultural signification of blackness/brownness to shed their young and innocent facades and sell their more sexually dangerous personas, Grande also departs from this “tradition” radically. She does not borrow; she becomes black, becomes brown, becomes something not quite black or brown, yet not quite white either. She becomes transracial.

At stake here is not the matter of people simply being confused about Grande’s racial identity. Confusion is almost always inevitable when it comes to race, because the colonial fantasy of racial purity, and even of race itself, always falls apart as it tries to categorize the unruliness of the body to create a hierarchy of humanity (with whiteness at its apex). What so disturbing, then, is the fact that Grande successfully mobilizes, amplifies, and capitalizes on this (trans)racial confusion, and gets away with crossing into non-whiteness the way Rachel Dolezal cannot. My goals in writing this essay are two-fold: (1) to articulate Ariana Grande’s image transformation not as an act of racial passing, but as a gradual racial transitioning from whiteness into ambiguity (2) to redirect the discourse on transracialism away from the monopoly of Dolezal, who, together with her transracial “identity” of blackness, has been too easily brushed off as a joke, a lie, or at best an individual anomaly…

Read the entire article here.

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What is Racial Passing?

Posted in Economics, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Slavery, United States, Videos on 2019-03-03 03:59Z by Steven

What is Racial Passing?

Digital Studios: Origin of Everything
PBS Digital Studios
Public Broadcasting Service
Season 2, Episode 13 (First Aired: 2019-02-27)

Danielle Bainbridge, Host, Writer, and Postdoctoral Fellow
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

What motivates someone to disguise their race, gender, religion, etc.? Today Danielle explores the complicated history of passing in the United States.

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Why do so many others want to claim Blackness if it means oppression?

Posted in Articles, Passing, Social Justice, United Kingdom, United States on 2019-01-19 03:57Z by Steven

Why do so many others want to claim Blackness if it means oppression?

The Black Youth Project
2018-12-27

Inigo Laguda


Anthony Lennon via Facebook | Rachel Dolezal via Wikimedia Commons

It is the most enthralling and excruciating time to be Black. Recently, it seems, some have managed access to glide through avenues that were previously concealed from us—to break down walls that were once erected to ostracize us. We are in the belly of a Black artistic renaissance and some of these shifting tides are joyous to watch. We are flooding onto magazine covers. The silver screen has a vivid range of our stories being told. The littler screen is forming and fleshing out more of our narratives than ever before. Slowly, we are being more and more seen.

But just as the draping trees and tranquil swamp-waters of the southern Bayou once served as an eerily mesmerizing backdrop for the unrelenting violence that enslaved peoples faced as they toiled tirelessly nearby—the painful reality of being Black is one of a dual existence. Victory is juxtaposed with defeat, and joy is never further than a stones throw from pain…

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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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Reverse Passing

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-04-09 01:39Z by Steven

Reverse Passing

UCLA Law Review
Volume 64, Issue 2 (2017)
pages 282-354

Khaled A. Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law
University of Detroit, Mercy School of Law

Erika K. Wilson, C. Ivey II Term Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Throughout American history untold numbers of people have concealed their true racial identities and assumed a white racial identity in order to reap the economic, political, and social benefits associated with whiteness. This phenomenon is known as passing. While legal scholars have thoroughly investigated passing in its conventional form, the corollary process of reverse passing—the process in which whites conceal their true racial identity and present themselves as nonwhite—has not been closely investigated within legal scholarship.

Rachel Dolezal provides a timely study of the process of reverse passing. Dolezal—an Africana Studies Instructor and head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP—was outed as being white after years of phenotypically and culturally presenting herself as a Black woman. Dolezal’s “outing” generated much popular debate and scholarly discourse, most of which tended to frame her actions as a one-off occurrence by a deviant actor. This Article takes a contrary position.

Though reverse passing is often framed as deviant or irrational, this Article demonstrates how the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action jurisprudence creates tangible and intangible incentives for white actors to identify as nonwhite. It suggests that the Court’s entrenchment of the diversity rationale as the primary compelling state interest that can be used to justify race-conscious affirmative action programs generated situational value in nonwhiteness. That situational value in nonwhiteness now creates incentives that previously did not exist for whites to reverse-pass in order to obtain access to opportunities in education, employment and beyond.

This Article is the first to coin, analyze, and propose a theory of reverse passing. It also deepens the rich and rising scholarship examining performance theory and the pliability of racial identity. Finally, given the reconsideration of the diversity rationale by the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, this Article also provides an opportunity to critically examine the merits and shortcomings of the diversity rationale.

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-03-24 19:49Z by Steven

National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

New York Magazine
2018-03-16

Lauren Michele Jackson


Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic. Photograph by Robin Hammond

In her honest but odd memoir that it seems, thankfully, few besides me have read, National Geographic emerges as a crucial touchstone to Rachel Dolezal’s supposed racial awakening. Isolated regionally and culturally by Christian-fundamentalist parents, copies of the magazine were one of the few tokens from 1980s and ’90s American culture allowed to Dolezal in a home that forbade television and processed food. And while her older brother scrounged pages for photos of topless women, NatGeo begat Rachel’s earliest racial fantasies. Coating herself in mud from head to feet, she “would pretend to be a dark-skinned princess in the Sahara Desert or one of the Bantu women living in the Congo,” images conjured exclusively by the monthly magazine. “I would stay in this fantasy world as long as I possibly could,” Dolezal writes. “It was never long enough.”

Over the last century, National Geographic has used the guise of ethnographic research to stoke the racial imaginations of curious white people. Investigating peoples and cultures like flora, splaying their images upon glossy pages with unchecked fascination, the magazine does not have a great track record when it comes to stories about people of color. And yet, these are the stories NatGeo is most famous for, training generation after generation to gawk at peoples other than themselves through telephoto lenses. Founded in 1888 to document the interests of affluent explorers, the name alone evokes a colonial impulse — the National Geographic Society started as a private club dedicated to worldly, exotic travel. The publication has long been an unrepentant descendant of those beginnings — until now, allegedly…

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