The Fiction of the Color Line

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-10-21 01:01Z by Steven

The Fiction of the Color Line

Vulture
2021-10-18

Brittany Luse

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo: Getty, Yale University Library

Black women writers have long used passing stories to crack our façades of race, class, and gender.

Somewhere on Long Island around 1980, a blondish preteen is onstage at summer camp channeling Hodel from Fiddler on the Roof, her confident voice and star power self-evident. Her tawny-skinned father beams from the audience, and as she takes her bow, soaking in the applause, he approaches the stage bearing a hefty bouquet of daisies. He hands her the flowers, their eyes and hearts locking for a beat in shared pride. Then the girl realizes that every other parent, instructor, and child in the auditorium is staring at them. “Not in a way that felt good, not because I had given the outstanding performance of the night,” she would recall decades later. “They were staring because my father was the only Black man in sight, and I belonged to him.” The others had assumed until that moment that Mariah Carey — the girl with the frizzy honey-blonde hair — was white like them.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey, the singer’s delectable memoir co-written with Michaela Angela Davis, a former editor at Essence and Vibe, recalls many such stories. In doing so, it’s in direct conversation with the American literary tradition of novels about passing and passing-capable Black women — stories about the concealment, or the possibility of concealment, of one’s Black parentage and all of the attendant personal and social complexity. Since the late-19th century, writers have used passing as a narrative tool to do everything from encouraging white readers to sympathize with the struggles of Black characters to scrutinizing the hypocrisy of America’s racial hierarchy…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Problem of the Prism: Racial Passing, Colorism, and the Politics of Racial Visibility

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-10-20 13:10Z by Steven

The Problem of the Prism: Racial Passing, Colorism, and the Politics of Racial Visibility

University of Maryland
2020
DOI: 10.13016/kkbp-vio4

DeLisa Hawkes

In The Problem of the Prism, I argue that activist writers challenged the normalizing of white supremacy and imagined black futurity within the intersections of racial visibility, nation, and culture by transforming and repurposing racist and colorist ideologies. Through a wide range of cultural materials, I recuperate overlooked discourses on race and color by broadening the parameters through which we understand the black-white color line.

Focusing on neglected texts by understudied authors allows for a deeper consideration of how assumed ancestry and legal segregation impact America’s construction of citizenship and social hierarchies. For this reason, I consider how critical attention to skin complexion and visible ancestry illuminates institutionalized feelings of inferiority. I call these the politics of racial visibility. In the first chapter, I consider Albion Tourgée’s 1890 novel Pactolus Prime and the ways in which it offers readers an examination of how the black-white color line fosters notions of inferiority within both races.

In chapter two, I argue that Sutton Griggs inspires the “New Mulatta,” a revision of the “tragic mulatta” trope, that inspires race pride throughout the Black Diaspora by rejecting colorist ideologies. In chapter three, I recover the works of Olivia Ward Bush-Banks and Sylvester “Chief Buffalo Child” Long Lance as critical lenses through which to deconstruct black separatism by considering African-Native American identities within New Negro philosophy. I argue that their works reconceptualize the “tragic mulatta/o” outside of the confines of the black-white binary while acknowledging the fraught relationship between African Americans and Native Americans. Thus, their works reveal a black-red color line that disables anti-racist and anti-colonialist collaboration. In the final chapter, I argue that 1940s and 1950s Ebony magazine articles shift readers’ attention to racial anxieties within the “white” appearing spectrum of the black-white color line to critique internalized racism. By addressing social implications anticipated within racial ambiguity in the space of the home, this commercial magazine allows readers from all socioeconomic backgrounds to engage with pressing concerns over racial visibility. Ultimately, Ebony magazine’s persistent focus on colorism and racial passing brings the efforts of nineteenth and early-twentieth-century authors full circle.

Login to read the dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

A qualitative examination of familial racial-ethnic socialization experiences among multiracial American emerging adults.

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2021-10-20 02:10Z by Steven

A qualitative examination of familial racial-ethnic socialization experiences among multiracial American emerging adults.

Journal of Family Psychology
Volume 35, Issue 7 (Oct. 2021)
DOI: 10.1037/fam0000918

Annabelle L. Atkin, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Scholar
T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Arizona State University

Kelly F. Jackson, Associate Professor of Social Work
Arizona State University

Rebecca M. B. White, Associate Professor of Family and Human Development
Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Arizona State University

Alisia G. T. T. Tran, Assistant Professor in the Counseling and Counseling Psychology Program
Arizona State University

This qualitative interview study investigated the types of parental racial-ethnic socialization messages received by Multiracial American youth over the course of their development. The Multiracial population in America is the largest demographic group among individuals under the age of 18 (Saulny, 2011), but there is a dearth of research about the development of this rapidly growing population. Multiracial youth are members of multiple racial-ethnic groups. Thus, racial-ethnic socialization is particularly complex for Multiracial families because parents typically have different racial backgrounds and experiences compared to their children. Interviews were conducted with 20 Multiracial emerging adult college students (Mage = 20.55; 10 male, 10 female) of diverse racial backgrounds to identify the types of parental racial-ethnic socialization messages they received growing up. Using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), nine themes of racial-ethnic socialization content emerged: Cultural socialization, racial identity socialization, preparation for bias socialization, colorblind socialization, race-conscious socialization, diversity appreciation socialization, negative socialization, exposure to diversity socialization, and silent socialization. This research advances the literature by (a) identifying domains of racial-ethnic socialization messages for Multiracial American families, (b) examining a diverse sample of male and female Multiracial youth, (c) differentiating monoracial versus Multiracial socialization messages, and (d) distinguishing the unique connotations of egalitarian socialization messages (e.g., colorblind, race-conscious, diversity appreciation). The findings have important implications for understanding the development of Multiracial American individuals and families.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

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.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,

Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Posted in Anthologies, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-09-29 01:09Z by Steven

Erasure and Recollection: Memories of Racial Passing

Peter Lang
September 2021
366 pages
13 fig. b/w.
Paperback ISBN:978-2-8076-1625-7
ePUB ISBN:978-2-8076-1627-1 (DOI: 10.3726/b18256)

Edited by:

Hélène Charlery, Professor of English Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France

Aurélie Guillain, Professor of American Literature
University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France

Many recent studies of racial passing have emphasized the continuing, almost haunting power of racial segregation even in the post-segregation period in the US, or in the post-apartheid period in South Africa. This “present-ness” of racial passing, the fact that it has not really become “passé,” is noticeable in the great number of testimonies which have been published in the 2000s and 2010s by descendants of individuals who passed for white in the English-speaking world. The sheer number of publications suggest a continuing interest in the kind of relation to the personal and national past which is at stake in the long-delayed revelation of cases of racial passing.

This interest in family memoirs or in fictional works re-tracing the erasure of some relative’s racial identity is by no means limited to the United States: for instance, Zoë Wicomb in South Africa or Zadie Smith in the UK both use the passing novel to unravel the complex situation of mixed-race subjects in relation to their family past and to a national past marked by a history of racial inequality.

Yet, the vast majority of critical approaches to racial passing have so far remained largely focused on the United States and its specific history of race relations. The objective of this volume is twofold: it aims at shedding light on the way texts or films show the work of individual memory and collective recollection as they grapple with a racially divided past, struggling with its legacy or playing with its stereotypes. Our second objective has been to explore the great variety in the forms taken by racial passing depending on the context, which in turn leads to differences in the ways it is remembered. Focusing on how a previously erased racial identity may resurface in the present has enabled us to extend the scope of our study to other countries than the United States, so that this volume hopes to propose some new, transnational directions in the study of racial passing.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction – Hélène Charlery and Aurélie Guillain
  • Part I: Memories of Racial Passing – Reconstructing Local and Personal Histories – From Homer Plessy to Paul Broyard
    • To Pass or Not to Pass in New Orleans – Nathalie Dessens
    • Racial Passing at New Orleans Mardi Gras; From Reconstruction to the Mid- Twentieth Century: Flight of Fancy or Masked Resistance? – Aurélie Godet
    • Passing through New Orleans, Atlanta, and New York City: The Dynamics of Racial Assignation in Walter White’s Flight (1926) – Aurélie Guillain
    • African American Women Activists and Racial Passing: Personal Journeys and Subversive Strategies (1880s– 1920s) – Élise Vallier-Mathieu
  • Part II: Memory, Consciousness and the Fantasy of Amnesia in Passing Novels
    • “What Irene Redfield Remembered”: Making It New in Nella Larsen’s Passing – M. Giulia Fabi
    • Between Fiction and Reality: Passing for Non- Jewish in Multicultural American Fiction – Ohad Reznick
    • Experiments in Passing: Racial Passing in George Schuyler’s Black No More and Arthur Miller’s Focus – Ochem G.l.a. Riesthuis
    • Passing to Disappearance: The Voice/ Body Dichotomy and the Problem of Identity in Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing (2004) – Anne-Catherine Bascoul
  • Part III: Memories of Racial Passing within and beyond the United States: Towards a Transnational Approach
    • “The Topsy-Turviness of Being in the Wrong Hemisphere” Transnationalizing the Racial Passing Narrative – Sinéad Moynihan
    • Passing, National Reconciliation and Adolescence in Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002) and The Wooden Camera (Ntshaveni Wa Luruli, 2003) – Delphine David and Annael Le Poullennec
    • Transnational Gendered Subjectivity in Passing across the Black Atlantic: Nella Larsen’s Passing, Michelle Cliff ’s Free Enterprise and Zadie Smith’s Swing Time – Kerry-Jane Wallart
  • About the Authors/ Editors
  • Index
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being La Dominicana: Race and Identity in the Visual Culture of Santo Domingo

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Women on 2021-09-06 01:55Z by Steven

Being La Dominicana: Race and Identity in the Visual Culture of Santo Domingo

University of Illinois Press
August 2021
264 pages
6 x 9 in.
13 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04381-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08580-2
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-05271-2

Rachel Afi Quinn, Associate Professor of Comparative Cultural Studies and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Dominican women being seen—and seeing themselves—in popular culture

Rachel Afi Quinn investigates the ways Dominican visual culture portrays Dominican women and how women represent themselves in their own creative endeavors in response to existing stereotypes. Delving into the dynamic realities and uniquely racialized gendered experiences of women in Santo Domingo, Quinn reveals how racial ambiguity and color hierarchy work to shape experiences of identity and subjectivity in the Dominican Republic. She merges analyses of context and interviews with young Dominican women to offer rare insights into a Caribbean society in which the tourist industry and popular media reward, and rely upon, the ability of Dominican women to transform themselves to perform gender, race, and class.

Engaging and astute, Being La Dominicana reveals the little-studied world of today’s young Dominican women and what their personal stories and transnational experiences can tell us about the larger neoliberal world.

Tags: , , ,

Identities in Flux: Race, Migration, and Citizenship in Brazil

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Slavery on 2021-08-30 19:01Z by Steven

Identities in Flux: Race, Migration, and Citizenship in Brazil

SUNY Press
February 2021
296 pages
Hardcover ISBN13: 978-1-4384-8249-1
Paperback ISBN13: 978-1-4384-8250-7

Niyi Afolabi, Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies
University of Texas, Austin

Reevaluates the significance of iconic Afro-Brazilian figures, from slavery to post-abolition.

Drawing on historical and cultural approaches to race relations, Identities in Flux examines iconic Afro-Brazilian figures and theorizes how they have been appropriated to either support or contest a utopian vision of multiculturalism. Zumbi dos Palmares, the leader of a runaway slave community in the seventeenth century, is shown not as an anti-Brazilian rebel but as a symbol of Black consciousness and anti-colonial resistance. Xica da Silva, an eighteenth-century mixed-race enslaved woman who “married” her master and has been seen as a licentious mulatta, questions gendered stereotypes of so-called racial democracy. Manuel Querino, whose ethnographic studies have been ignored and virtually unknown for much of the twentieth century, is put on par with more widely known African American trailblazers such as W. E. B. Du Bois. Niyi Afolabi draws out the intermingling influences of Yoruba and Classical Greek mythologies in Brazilian representations of the carnivalesque Black Orpheus, while his analysis of City of God focuses on the growing centrality of the ghetto, or favela, as a theme and producer of culture in the early twenty-first-century Brazilian urban scene. Ultimately, Afolabi argues, the identities of these figures are not fixed, but rather inhabit a fluid terrain of ideological and political struggle, challenging the idealistic notion that racial hybridity has eliminated racial discrimination in Brazil.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How Jean Toomer Rejected the Black-White Binary

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-29 01:32Z by Steven

How Jean Toomer Rejected the Black-White Binary

The Paris Review
2019-01-14

Ismail Muhammad

…to be a Negro is—is?—
to be a Negro, is. To Be.

—from “Toomer,” by Elizabeth Alexander

Jean Toomer had a complex relationship to his first and only major publication, the 1923 book Cane. The “novel,” which Penguin Classics has recently reissued with an introduction by the literary scholar George Hutchinson and a foreword by the novelist Zinzi Clemmons, is a heterogeneous collection of short stories, prose vignettes, and poetry that became an unlikely landmark of Harlem Renaissance literature. Its searching fragments dramatize the disappearance of African-American folk culture as black people migrated out of the agrarian Jim Crow South and into Northern industrial cities. It is a haunting and haunted celebration of that culture as it was sacrificed to the machine of modernity. Toomer termed the book a “swan song” for the black folk past.

The literary world was then (as it is now, perhaps) hungry for representative black voices; as Hutchinson writes, “Many stressed the ‘authenticity’ of Toomer’s African-Americans and the lyrical voice with which he conjured them into being.” This act of conjuring lured critics into reflexively accepting the book as a representation of the black South—and Toomer as the voice of that South. As his one-time friend Waldo Frank remarked in a forward to the book’s original edition, “This book is the South.” Cane transformed Toomer into a Negro literary star whose influence would filter down through African-American literary history: his interest in the folk tradition crystallized the Harlem Renaissance’s search for a useable Negro past, and would be instructive for later writers from Zora Neale Hurston to Ralph Ellison to Elizabeth Alexander…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

“Latinidad Is Cancelled”: Confronting an Anti-Black Construct

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-10 02:15Z by Steven

“Latinidad Is Cancelled”: Confronting an Anti-Black Construct

Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture
Volume 3, Issue 3 (July 2021)
pages 58-79
DOI: 10.1525/lavc.2021.3.3.58

Tatiana Flores, Professor of Latino & Caribbean Studies and Art History
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Adopting a hemispheric perspective, this essay problematizes the construct of latinidad by foregrounding how it reproduces Black erasure. I argue that “Latin America,” rather than being a geographical designator, is an imagined community that is Eurocentric to the degree that its conceptual boundaries exclude African diaspora spaces. I then turn to understandings of whiteness across borders, contrasting perceptions of racial mixture in the United States and the Hispanophone Americas. Lastly, I examine works by (Afro-)Latinx artists whose nuanced views on race demonstrate the potential of visual representation to provide insight into this complex topic beyond the black-white binary.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Racial Identity Choice and its Consequences: A Study on Elizabeth Alexander’s Race

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2021-07-22 02:35Z by Steven

Racial Identity Choice and its Consequences: A Study on Elizabeth Alexander’s Race

Annual International Conference on Language and Literature
Medan, Indonesia
2020-11-04 through 2020-11-05
Published 2021-03-11
Pages 17-27
DOI: 10.18502/kss.v5i4.8661

Nur Saktiningrum
Department of English
Gadjah Mada University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Race, as people understand it, is something that you were born with. One was born with specific physical features that by social construction, define one’s race. What if a person was born with physical features that enable him to choose whether to embrace the race defined by blood or the one defined by social construction? And are there any consequences of the choices made? This research studies the choice made by mulatto to pass as white and the consequences following the decision. The focus of the study is a poem written by Elizabeth Alexander entitled Race (2001). To answer the abovementioned questions, the poem is analyzed using a new historical approach. The approach enables the researcher to understand the historical background of and the author’s perspective on racial passing depicted in the poem and its relation to the reality of racial passing in American society. The results show that there are external and internal factors that make it possible for an individual to pass as a member of a different race from what he was. The external factors include the biological taxonomy that identifies him as belonging to a dominant race and the social construction that classifies people based on their physical features. The internal factor is the passer’s belief that by assuming a new racial identity, he will be able to lead a better life and be relieved from the oppression of the dominant race. Despite the privilege and opportunity that the new racial status can offer, racial passing can also bring some disadvantages such as the loss of the sense of belonging to the old racial identity, the feeling of insecurity, and the possibility of being disowned by one’s family.

Read the entire article in PDF or HTML format.

Tags: , ,