Rachel Dolezal and racial identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2022-01-24 01:38Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal and racial identity

jennifer j. roberts
2015-06-13

Jennifer J. Roberts

“…and she also chairs a police oversight commission”

Writing about race, to me, always seems to require a “side”, a perspective: I’m writing as a black woman… I’m writing as a white woman… I’m writing as a bi-racial woman. I could never fully dig my heels in on a side, because I never fully felt like any of those things completely. I was never quite sure what I was, so taking any perspective under those labels felt like taking a side and that felt like fraud.

Each of those racial designations stem from how you experience yourself in the world and, more importantly, how you are experienced by others. It felt different for me every day. There was no template, and my race was a moving target. Black to some, Hispanic to others, mystifying to most. White, as far as my mother was concerned. I looked just like her and she was, according to her, Irish.

My mother countered every swing of the racial bat with our Irish heritage, which was real but clearly, only part of who she was or we were. That other part, the part she didn’t want to know about, was me, looking her in the eyes…the spit of her; dark skinned and frizzy haired

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The Carrie Bourassa story is yet another example of a kind of cultural Munchausen Syndrome

Posted in Articles, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing on 2021-11-10 01:34Z by Steven

The Carrie Bourassa story is yet another example of a kind of cultural Munchausen Syndrome

The Globe and Mail
Toronto, Canada
2021-11-09

Drew Hayden Taylor

Carrie Bourassa, a University of Saskatchewan professor, told the world her ancestry was Métis, Anishnawbe and Tlingit. But she has been unable to verify her ancestry following reports questioning those claims.
DAVE STOBBE/UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

Here we go again – another day, another story about someone with supposed Indigenous roots turning out perhaps not to be who they say they are. After recent reports from Indigenous scholars and the CBC cast doubts on claims to Indigenous ancestry by Carrie Bourassa, a University of Saskatchewan professor in community health and epidemiology as well as the scientific director of the Institute of Indigenous People’s Health, she was put on indefinite paid leave from one position and unpaid leave from the other.

For the longest time, Bourassa told the world her ancestry was Métis, Anishnawbe and Tlingit. But since the reports questioning those claims, she has been unable to verify her ancestry. Now, relieved of her high-profile positions, she can spend all her spare time jigging, beading and carving totem poles.

She is the latest to be suffering from what I consider a cultural form of Munchausen Syndrome – when a person pretends to be sick in order to get sympathy and attention from those around them. This particular form of the syndrome, which seems to be on the rise, occurs when somebody pretends to be of another race or people – usually Indigenous – possibly to obtain respect and recognition from others and, some might argue, certain financial benefits as well.

An early practitioner was English expat conservationist Archibald Stansfeld Belaney, who claimed to be Native American and called himself Grey Owl – but even back then, most Indigenous people were suspicious of how Grey or Owl-like he actually was. More recently in the U.S., former college instructor Rachel Dolezal claimed to be African-American when in reality she was just a white woman with pigment envy…

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“Lying about a Lie”: Racial Passing in US History, Literature and Popular Culture

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-05 16:07Z by Steven

“Lying about a Lie”: Racial Passing in US History, Literature and Popular Culture

Journal of American Studies
Volume 50, Issue 2 (May 2016)
DOI: 10.1017/S0021875816000219

Sinéad Moynihan, Associate Professor of English
University of Exeter

In June 2015, the parents of Rachel Dolezal, president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, claimed that their daughter was passing as black. While she professed to be of mixed (white, African American) racial heritage, her parents asserted that she was of white European descent, with some remote Native American ancestry. The revelations precipitated Dolezal’s resignation from her role at the NAACP and a flurry of articles about the story that were disseminated around the world on Twitter under the “Rachel Dolezal” hashtag.

Much of the media coverage attempted to account for the fact that this story should elicit such impassioned reactions given that race has long been acknowledged as a performance. As Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker, Dolezal had dressed herself in “a fictive garb of race whose determinations are as arbitrary as they are damaging.” This does not mean that Dolezal “wasn’t lying about who she is.” It means that “she was lying about a lie.” Meanwhile, in the New York Times, Daniel J. Sharfstein pointed out that the kind of passing we saw in Dolezal’s case – passing from white to black; so-called “reverse passing” – was not as historically uncommon as other writers had claimed. What is unusual is that Dolezal should feel the need to pass as black when there were no legal (and comparatively few social) obstacles to her forming “meaningful relationships with African-Americans, study[ing], teach[ing] and celebrat[ing] black history and culture and fight[ing] discrimination.” For Sharfstein, the explanation lies in the fact that “when blackness means something very specific – asserting that black lives matter – it follows for many people that categorical clarity has to matter, too.”

The pervasive media and public interest in the Dolezal story confirms the ongoing fascination with racial passing within and beyond the United States, a popular interest that has its counterpart in the proliferation of academic studies of the subject that have been published in the past twenty years. The scholarly attention paid to racial passing inaugurated, arguably, by Elaine K. Ginsberg in her edited volume Passing and the Fictions of Identity (1996) continues unabated in two recent works on the subject. Julie Cary Nerad’s edited volume Passing Interest is concerned with cultural representations of passing, while Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile grapples with its history.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Race Off: The fantasy of race transformation

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2021-10-09 02:47Z by Steven

Race Off: The fantasy of race transformation

The Yale Review
2021-09-27

Namwali Serpell, Professor of English
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Genevieve Gaignard, People Make the World Go Round, 2019. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy the artist and Vielmetter Los Angeles.

This essay was first delivered in September 2021 as the Finzi-Contini Lecture at Yale University’s Whitney Humanities Center. The Finzi-Contini lectureship was endowed in 1990 by the Honorable Guido Calabresi, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former Dean of the Yale Law School, and Dr. Paul Calabresi, in memory of their mother, Bianca Maria Finzi-Contini Calabresi.

WHAT IF YOU COULD change your race? Some disturbing scandals of late have put this hypothetical to the reality test. A cluster of white American academics and activists, all women it seems, have been revealed to have spent years cosplaying a different race—Latinx, North African, black—deceiving their colleagues and comrades. The valedictorian of this recent class of racial fakers remains Rachel Dolezal, the former college instructor, activist, and president of an NAACP chapter, who was outed by a reporter in 2015. She confessed that she was “born white to white parents,” but still declares herself to be “racially human” and culturally black.

Such deceptions are nothing new. Racial hoaxes have been around for a long time, as Laura Browder explains in Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities (2000). In the mid-nineteenth century, P. T. Barnum showcased people of concocted races, such as “the Circassian Beauty,” and promoted a “Negro” who claimed to have discovered “a weed that turns a black person white.” Newspapers at the time called out runaway slave imposters, who went around “soliciting money,” “purchasing relatives and friends.” White writers published fake slave narratives, with some unconscious tells, according to Browder: their narrators tend to discover that slavery is bad (as if this were not obvious) and to betray both “disgust with the African-American body” and “an obsession with physical pain.” As late as the 1920s, the British- born Archibald Stansfeld Belaney disguised himself as Grey Owl, a Native American man. In his 2017 history Bunk, Kevin Young notes that “the hoax regularly steps in when race rears its head—exactly because it too is a fake thing pretending to be real.”…

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Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, United States on 2020-11-20 02:25Z by Steven

Why We Shouldn’t Compare Transracial to Transgender Identity

Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum
2020-11-18

Robin Dembroff, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Yale University

Dee Payton, Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

From left: Jessica Krug, Nkechi Amare Diallo (née Rachel Dolezal), Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox

Editors’ Note: This essay is the first installment in a new series, Racial Identity & Racial Fraud.

Unlike gender inequality, racial inequality primarily accumulates across generations. Transracial identification undermines collective reckoning with that injustice.

“Call me Caitlyn.” With this phrase, emblazoned on Vanity Fair’s June 2015 cover, Caitlyn Jenner revealed her transgender identity to the world. But these words were not only a revelation; they also were a demand. Most obviously, they demanded that others call Jenner by a new name. But even more importantly, they demanded that others recognize Jenner as having a certain identity: woman.

Reactions to this demand were predictable. Jenner was warmly embraced and lauded by many for her decision to—as Jenner put it—live as her “authentic self.” Transgender activist and writer Laverne Cox wrote that Jenner’s “courage to move past denial into her truth so publicly . . . [is] beyond beautiful to me.” President Barack Obama, retweeting Jenner’s announcement, praised her “courage to share [her] story.” Hundreds of thousands of others left encouraging comments on Jenner’s social media. Within these reactions, an idea repeatedly surfaced: Jenner’s demand for recognition as a woman is legitimate because Jenner is a woman…

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That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing

Posted in Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2020-10-11 02:38Z by Steven

That Middle World: Race, Performance, and the Politics of Passing

University of North Carolina Press
October 2020
242 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, 1 fig
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5957-2
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5956-5
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5958-9

Julia S. Charles, Assistant Professor of English
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

In this study of racial passing literature, Julia S. Charles highlights how mixed-race subjects invent cultural spaces for themselves—a place she terms that middle world—and how they, through various performance strategies, make meaning in the interstices between the Black and white worlds. Focusing on the construction and performance of racial identity in works by writers from the antebellum period through Reconstruction, Charles creates a new discourse around racial passing to analyze mixed-race characters’ social objectives when crossing into other racialized spaces. To illustrate how this middle world and its attendant performativity still resonates in the present day, Charles connects contemporary figures, television, and film—including Rachel Dolezal and her Black-passing controversy, the FX show Atlanta, and the musical Show Boat—to a range of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary texts. Charles’s work offers a nuanced approach to African American passing literature and examines how mixed-race performers articulated their sense of selfhood and communal belonging.

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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…

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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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