On Becoming Black, Becoming White and Being Human: Rachel Dolezal and the Fluidity of Race

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-06-05 01:22Z by Steven

On Becoming Black, Becoming White and Being Human: Rachel Dolezal and the Fluidity of Race


Channing G. Joseph

Library of Congress

For decades, no one knew my cousin Ernest Torregano was black. At least, no one who mattered in his new life.

Not the clients or associates of the prominent bankruptcy law firm with which he had built his reputation and his fortune. Not the other members of the San Francisco Planning Commission, of which he had been president. And certainly not the mayor, Elmer Robinson, with whom Ernest had been close since their days as fresh new lawyers in the city. It is quite likely, I think, that Ernest never admitted, even to Pearl, his second wife of 30 years, that she had married an African-American man.

Few understood the true extent of my cousin’s labyrinth of secrets until he was already dead and buried. By then, he had successfully “passed for white” for more than 40 years.

When his only child, Gladys Stevens, learned that her father had not died in 1915 but had been alive until 1954, she filed suit to claim her share of his estate—worth about $300,000 then, or about $2.6 million today. After a protracted legal battle to prove she really was Ernest’s daughter, she won. Meanwhile, her story—and Ernest’s—made national headlines for nearly seven years. One Oklahoma newspaper announced: “Widow Claims Rich Lawyer Was Really Her Negro Father.” A Connecticut paper proclaimed: “Daughter’s Suit Reveals Double Life of Man Who Passed Over Color Line.” But Newsweek magazine’s headline captured the essence of the story in just three words: “The Second Man.”

Born into a mixed-race family in New Orleans in 1882, the First Man was the fair-skinned son of a white father and a mixed-race mother. And because he so loved to sing and to laugh and to travel, he joined a touring minstrel troupe, performing in blackface makeup for cheering crowds across the South. In that show, he met Viola, who played the guitar, and they married. After their daughter, Gladys, was born, the First Man took a job as a Pullman porter on the Southern Pacific Railroad line from New Orleans to San Francisco—to make a better living for his new family. But at some point along the way—perhaps as he gazed through a train car window at the countryside rolling by or as he wandered along Market Street among white people who did not sneer at him or call him “boy”—he decided he would never return home. (According to one account, his mother, who supported the idea of his passing, convinced him that Viola and Gladys had been killed and that he should forget them forever.)…

Read the entire article here.

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BBC World TV Interview Re Rachel Dolezal & Passing

Posted in Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2016-01-11 02:29Z by Steven

BBC World TV Interview Re Rachel Dolezal & Passing

Marcia Dawkins

Marcia Dawkins, Assistant Professor of Arts and Humanities
The Minerva Schools at KGI, San Francisco, California

Dr. Dee chatted roadside with BBC World News about the firestorm raging around Rachel Dolezal, the white Spokane, Washington NAACP leader who allegedly passes as black.

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Whites pass for black to gain empathy, experts say in wake of Dolezal case

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-13 23:39Z by Steven

Whites pass for black to gain empathy, experts say in wake of Dolezal case

USA Today

Melanie Eversley, Breaking News Reporter

In history and in many black American families, there’s talk of black people passing for white, especially during the days of Jim Crow laws or slavery when it benefited them or even saved their lives.

But not as much has been written about the white people who pass for black or adopt black culture — from celebrities who adopt traditionally black hairstyles and vernacular, or, as social media has been abuzz with since Thursday, Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP Spokane, Wash., branch president whose parents say she is white.

English professor Alisha Gaines, who is publishing a book about white people who pass for black, says the phenomenon is rooted in a need to identify and empathize with black culture. Some people throughout history have passed for black as a way to immerse themselves in the experience, says Gaines, who teaches at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

One of the people referenced in her book, Black for a Day: Fantasies of Race and Empathy, is Grace Halsell, a late journalist who posed as a black woman for a few weeks in the deep South and wrote about her experiences in a book titled Soul Sister

…The main reason people choose to pass for black is they have a need or desire to promote civil rights and racial justice, says Marcia Dawkins, author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity

…Author and educator Nikki Khanna believes it also can be about being accepted.

“Maybe for this particular woman — it seems as if she cares about African-American issues, she heads the chapter of the NAACP in Spokane, I don’t know if she felt that was her way of fitting in,” says Khanna, who has studied how biracial Americans identify in terms of race

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Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-03-15 01:50Z by Steven


Cultural Weekly

Ulli K. Ryder, Ph.D.
Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts

Ryder, Ulli K. and Marcia Alesan Dawkins (eds.), Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age (Los Angeles: USC Annenberg Press, 2015).

We are scholars who have been thinking with a “mixed mind-set” for quite a while. We are also multiracial. For us, being multiracial is a discursive, dialectical method of identity formation concerning mixed race individuals’ and interracial families’ experiences, perspectives, and concerns. As scholars, we research multiracial identities from many different angles, primarily looking at everyday practices such as identity formation and “passing,” but also thinking about how multiracial identities connect to technology, business, politics, activism, and culture.

As a result, this book is about multiracial identities and the risks and rewards they offer. Each chapter dissects this controversial term—multiracial—and the risks and rewards it represents in a unique way. The macro level studies included argue that the historical production of race as a technology of management was used on a large scale to rank and order society, allocate resources and, in the process advantage and disadvantage certain groups. On the other hand, the personal meditations included demonstrate how mixed race operates as an identity and technology of power. By using and redefining racial categories in new ways, these contributions show us how to mobilize race in public and private…

Read the entire article here.

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Imagining a future where racial reassignment surgery is the norm

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive on 2015-03-06 00:32Z by Steven

Imagining a future where racial reassignment surgery is the norm


Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Communications Professor
University of Southern California, Annenberg

Jess Row’s haunting new novel, Your Face In Mine, is an invitation to the future, an era bound only by the limits of imagination, money, and technology. It’s a time when you can edit anything about yourself—your location, occupation, your status and even your race—if you are a part of the right network.

In the future Row casts, some of us have grown accustomed to the sights and sounds of diversity and the ideal that law and culture treat every person equally. While others are experiencing “racial dysphoria,” or significant discontent with the racial identities we’ve been assigned at birth or the stereotypical roles associated with those racial identities. Row’s novel argues that racial dysphoria stems from the failure of racial assimilation in our techno-driven world. It’s a sign that racism persists even as race no longer seems to matter. The future Row casts is eerily reminiscent of what many cultural critics call our “post-racial” present, a time in which real racism persists without any real racists to blame…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-16 01:42Z by Steven

Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age

USC Annenberg Press
113 pages
ISBN: 9781625175564

Edited by:

Ulli K. Ryder
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Rhode Island

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor
Annenberg School for Communication and Jounalism
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Have you been asked, “what nationality are you” or “what country are you from”?
Have you been puzzled when forms tell you to “select only one ethnicity”?
Have you been disturbed to hear that you’re the “face of a colorblind future”?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, this book is for you.

Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age is an e-book that contains 17 contributions (many with exclusive photos) from award-winning writers, researchers and artists who embody a “mixed mindset.” Audacious and razor-sharp, Mixed Race 3.0 exposes the many monochromatic portrayals of multiracial people’s richness, variety and struggles in history, politics, mass-media and technology. Fans of Loving Day, Race Remixed, Mixed Chicks Chat, The Mixed Experience Podcast, Mixed Girl Problems and Critical Mixed Race Studies will be captivated, incensed and inspired by the powerful discussions of risks and rewards of being multiracial today.

Beyond memoir or case study, this book offers three versions of what it means to be mixed from a variety of voices. Version 1 is “Mixed Race 1.0: A Monologue.” Or, how did multiracial identities emerge in the U.S. and what challenges did they face? Version 2 is “Mixed Race 2.0: A Dialogue.” Or, what are some core differences between how multiracials think and talk about themselves and how U.S. and global cultures think and talk about them? Version 3 is “Mixed Race 3.0: A Megalogue.” Or, where in the world is this entire thing going as technology plays more of a role?

With honest storytelling and up-to-date critical inquiry, Mixed Race 3.0 plots a path not just to being mixed in the 21st century, but one open to anyone interested in simply “how to be.” The result is a poignant, intelligent, and daring journey that dissects the controversial label—multiracial—and challenges any politician, pundit or provocateur that purports to speak for or about all multiracial people.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
    • Herman S. Gray
  • Introduction
  • Section 1 Mixed Race 1.0: A Monologue
    • Gary B. Nash
    • Peggy Pascoe
    • Jordan Clarke
  • Section 2 Mixed Race 2.0: A Dialouge
    • Ken Tanabe
    • Lori L. Tharps
    • Andrew K. Jolivette
    • Ulli K. Ryder
    • Marcia Alesan Dawkins
    • Stephanie Sparling
  • Section 3 Mixed Race 3.0: A Megalogue
    • Rainier Spencer
    • Velina Hasu Houston
    • Lindsay A. Dawkins
    • Amanda Mardon
    • Shoshana Sarah
    • Mary Beltrán
    • Lisa Rueckert
  • The Authors and Artists
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Mixing Race, Risk, and Reward in the Digital Age (Sawyer Seminar IV)

Posted in History, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2013-11-01 04:04Z by Steven

Mixing Race, Risk, and Reward in the Digital Age

University of Southern California
Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Center for Japanese Religions and Culture
University Park Campus
Doheny Memorial Library (DML), East Asian Seminar Room: 110C
2013-11-05, 13:00-17:00 PST (Local Time)

USC Conference Convenors:

Duncan Williams, Associate Professor of Religion
University of Southern California

Brian C. Bernards, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Southern California

Velina Hasu Houston, Associate Dean for Faculty Recognition and Development, Director of Dramatic Writing and Professor
University of Southern California

What are the outcomes of evolving racial ideologies in North America and how are they impacting 21st century American identities?  How do 21st century multiracial identities and representations reflect and challenge historical constructions of racial mixing?  How does racial mixing inform transhumanistic enterprises (i.e., wearable technology) and impact educational experiences dedicated to mixed-race studies in digital spaces?


“Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity”

Marcia Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication Studies
University of Southern California (Author of Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity (Baylor University Press, 2012) and Eminem: The Real Slim Shady (Praeger, 2013).)

“Frizzly Studies: Law, History, Narrative, and the Color Line”

Daniel J. Sharfstein, Professor of Law
Vanderbilt University (Author of The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2013) and “Crossing the Color Line: Racial Migration and the Emergence of the One-Drop Rule, 1600-1860,” Minnesota Law Review (2007).)

“Tweeting into the Future: Mixing Race and Technology in the 21st Century”

Ulli K. Ryder, Scholar in Residence, Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life
Brown University (Author of forthcoming book Mixed Race 3.0: Mixing Race, Risk & Reward in the Digital Age (Annenberg Press, 2014).)

For more information, click here.

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Clearly Invisible Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity by Marcia Alesan Dawkins, and: The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics and Aesthetics in the New Millennium by Michele Elam (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-10-08 21:15Z by Steven

Clearly Invisible Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity by Marcia Alesan Dawkins, and: The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics and Aesthetics in the New Millennium by Michele Elam (review)

Philip Roth Studies
Volume 9, Number 2, Fall 2013
pages 99-103
DOI: 10.1353/prs.2013.0024

Donavan L. Ramon
Rutgers University

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012, vxi + 229 pp.

Michele Elam, The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium, Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2011, xxiii + 277 pp.

According to W.E.B. DuBois’s prophetic theory articulated in The Souls of Black Folk (1903), “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line” (221). Myriad critical and popular pieces over the past several years suggest that this theory has run its course: the celebration of mixed race people putatively implies the “end” of race. Certainly the election of the first biracial president has been touted as the epitome of post-race life in America. Yet as recent critical interventions by Michele Elam and Marcia Alesan Dawkins remind us, race remains prevalent because of biracial people, not in spite of it.

The continuities between DuBois’s theory and Elam’s are underscored by the title of the latter’s monograph. In The Souls of Mixed Folk, the Stanford University English Professor asserts that the notion of post-Black art being apolitical is a complete fiction, much like the idea that post-Civil Rights politics are in decline. By examining the images of mixed race subjects in a wide range of artistic forms, Elam argues that these venues are the newer locations that “engage issues of civil rights and social change” (16). To accept this belief, she begins her book by convincing readers that the increased interest in mixed race deludes many people into believing that race no longer exists. If this is truly the case, then why do fictional representations of biracial people continue to represent anxiety across a multitude of genres? More specifically, why has the last several years seen a resurgence in narratives of racial passing—such as Philip Roth’s The Human Stain?

Elam explores these questions across five thoroughly researched and well-written chapters. The first traces the history of mixed race studies in curricula across the nation while raising related yet ignored issues. For instance she problematizes the focus of heteronormative depictions of mixed race families at the expense of homosexual ones, while also reminding us that mixed Americans have historically been the result of sexual violation. She believes we must be mindful of considering the product of these unions as representatives of racial progress without understanding the nuances of slavery and violence inflicted on black bodies by whites.

Chapter two changes the focus from history to contemporary comic strips by Aaron McGruder and Nate Creekmore. In their works, Elam rightly sees racial identity as “a matter of public negotiation, social location, cultural affirmation, political commitment, and historical homage” (58). In chapter four, Elam situates the traditional European bildungsroman against the “mixed race bildungsroman”. The former focuses on the “social incorporation of the individual” (125) whereas protagonists in the latter are not “incorporated into the society or the social progress that they are supposed to represent . . . [and they] challenge the popular image of the ‘modern minority’” (126). She applies her theory of the “mixed race bildungsroman” to Emily Raboteau’s The Professor’s Daughter (1997) and Danzy Senna’s Symptomatic (2004). Elam’s last chapter examines performances of mixed race in Carl Hancock Rux’s play Talk and “The Racial Draft” skit from Dave Chappelle’s defunct late-night comedy show. Her argument here is that in both performances, there is a “re-visioning and a re-membering of the national order” (161).

The middle chapter is the one that is most germane to this journal, as it examines racial passing in Danzy Senna’s Causcasia (1999), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000), and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (2000). Despite research to the contrary, Elam begins this chapter by arguing that racial passing literature is far from being an obsolete genre, as these novels attest. Despite living in a post-race era, these narratives collectively argue for the rebirth of racial passing as a “social inquiry” (98). Explaining further, the novels addressed here force readers to reconsider “the performative, iterative nature of racial identity as a rich social heuristic” (98).

This is nowhere more evident than in The Human Stain , where racial passing acts as a “reactionary vehicle to critique political correctness”—particularly because it is set during President Clinton’s sex scandal (98). In this regard, “performance,” can have multiple meanings in the novel: one referring…

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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Explains What it Is to Be Mixed and Happy

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science on 2013-08-27 04:07Z by Steven

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Explains What it Is to Be Mixed and Happy

The Huffington Post

Marcia Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communications
University of Southern California, Annenberg

Professors Ravinder Barn and Vicki Harman from the Centre for Criminology and Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London are carrying out a groundbreaking research project about white mothers and mixed race children. Theirs is part of a wider study of mixed race children, youth and families that has spanned over twenty years. According to Dr. Harman, “white mothers of mixed-parentage children can find themselves dealing with racism directed at their children as well as facing social disapproval themselves.” Such is the case with Nella, the white mother of mixed race protagonist Rachel, in Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Read the entire article here.

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What the ‘Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful’ Meme Really Means

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-23 00:32Z by Steven

What the ‘Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful’ Meme Really Means

The Huffington Post

Marcia Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor of Communications
University of Southern California, Annenberg

The New York Times’ Motherlode blog recently posted a thought-provoking article called, “Mixed Kids Are Always So Beautiful.” The author’s experiences as a parent to a racially-ambiguous mixed child are proof that beauty and race are concepts societies create that may not actually exist in nature. As a result, beauty and race are associated with and impacted by our experiences and perceptions related to class, immigration, gender, sexuality and marketing. Case in point: Since the Time magazine “New Eve” cover in the 1990s, multiracial individuals are more and more said to be the face of 21st century America and its evolved standard of beauty. But what’s less known is that even this image was altered to look less “Hispanic/Latino” (read: brown) and more “European” (read: white) after focus group testing.

The “mixed race faces are prettier” meme is related directly to hybrid vigor, the biological phenomenon that predicts that crossbreeding leads to offspring that are genetically fitter than their parents. Hybrid vigor makes mixed race people somehow biologically different and prettier than non-mixed (non-white) people by nature. Equally dangerous is the added effect that focusing on mixed-race offspring continues to make interracial relationships about sex and heterosexuality and to marginalize those who do not identify as heterosexuals and/or come from same-sex interracial families…

…My parents reminded us that real beauty is measured more accurately by intelligence, interests and healthy relationships rather than by a racially ambiguous appearance and others’ reactions to it. They also taught me not to “believe the (racist) hype” that mixed kids are more beautiful than anyone else…

Read the entire article here.

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