I Now Pronounce You Man and White: Racial Passing and Gender in Charles Chesnutt’s Fiction

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-11-27 03:04Z by Steven

I Now Pronounce You Man and White: Racial Passing and Gender in Charles Chesnutt’s Fiction

American Literary Realism
Volume 52, Issue 3, (Spring 2020)
pages 189-210
DOI: 10.5406/amerlitereal.52.3.0189

Martha J. Cutter, Professor of English
University of Connecticut

As a literary genre in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, many African American-to-white racial passing fictions are built around a stable set of narrative conventions: the passer decides to pass, moves to a new location, takes on a new name and identity, and then either dies, returns to his or her “true” race, or moves out of the United States (usually to Europe). Of course, there are exceptions to these patterns, but many fictional texts well into the first three decades of the twentieth century continue to utilize them to a large degree.2 This is not to deny, as some critics contend, that passing texts sometimes disrupt many of the binaries around which identity categories are established and maintained—such as black versus white or male versus female—as well as the visual “logic” of race itself.2 Yet many early twentieth-century passing texts conclude by containing to some degree the challenging questions that the passing figure has raised about the durability of categories of race (or gender) through specific types of narrative closure.

Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900) is unusual in that the male protagonist—John Walden/Warwick—ends up continuing to live in the United States while passing for white; therefore many questions that John’s passing presence has raised about the stability of racial identity are left open at the end of the text. Yet Rena Walden/Warwick, John’s sister, who also passes for white, is dead at the end. Does Chesnutt—who certainly saw race as a social construction,3 although perhaps not gender—ever depict women characters who can maintain a passing presence that keeps open questions about the meaning of whiteness and blackness? In fact there are several texts by Chesnutt in which women pass for white. However, their passing is often allowed, enforced, or enabled by a male (black or white) whom they might marry. In such texts both African American and white men have the ability not only to provide to women an identity as “wife” but also an identity as “white.” These female racial passers are therefore both literally and figuratively granted whiteness only through inscription as patriarchal property within the institution of marriage. Hence the title of this essay: for Chesnutt’s women, it is a male who can pronounce them not only wife, but also white.

A lawyer himself—he had passed the bar in Ohio in 1887—Chesnutt is often viewed as presenting a sophisticated critique of the law and as sometimes “theoriz[ing] imaginative ways that legal principles could be used to repair American race relations.”4 Yet is this the case in terms of gender relations—does Chesnutt’s fiction critique and repair gender inequities? Chesnutt’s fiction recognizes the intersectional nature of women’s oppression in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, when women of any race possessed limited rights under the doctrine of coverture and in the face of the denial of women’s suffrage and other political and legal civil liberties; yet his works do not imagine a “repair” of gender relations.5 Robyn Wiegman argues that “modern citizenship functions as a disproportionate system in which the universalism ascribed to certain bodies (white, male, propertied) is protected and subtended by the infinite particularity assigned to others (black, female, unpropertied).”6 Men who pass into whiteness therefore may become modern citizens with full rights and a universal and unparticularized body. But women who pass into whiteness are still women with limited rights and non-property holders in most states in the U.S. well into the late-nineteenth century, and they are always defined in terms of their bodily particularity and peculiarity. Moreover, within the system of capitalism they are configured as property to be trafficked between men, gifts to be traded back and forth, and it is only specifically through an exchange between men that they can move from a natural realm (a realm outside society) to a social order in which their status (even as objects) can be…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘Just a little more free’

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2022-11-26 21:23Z by Steven

‘Just a little more free’

Harvard Law Today
2022-11-22

Jeff Neal, Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations
Harvard Law School

Credit: Lorin Granger

At the inaugural Belinda Sutton Distinguished Lecture, Johns Hopkins Professor Martha Jones chronicles her journey into her family’s ties to slavery and to Harvard

At the inaugural Belinda Sutton Distinguished Lecture, Johns Hopkins University Professor Martha S. Jones recounted her family’s historic and ongoing connections both to the institution of slavery and to several academic institutions, including Harvard. Jones, whose work examines how Black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy, leads her university’s Hard Histories at Hopkins Project, which works to uncover the role that racism and discrimination have played at the Baltimore-based institution.

The event at which Jones spoke honors Belinda Sutton, a woman who had been enslaved by Isaac Royall Jr., whose 1781 bequest to Harvard College funded a professorship that helped to establish Harvard Law in 1817. The annual lecture and conference series was established earlier this year at Harvard Law School and is organized by Guy-Uriel E. Charles, the Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law and faculty director of the Charles Hamilton Institute for Race and Justice…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Doubts Over Indigenous Identity in Academia Spark ‘Pretendian’ Claims

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing on 2022-10-31 21:09Z by Steven

Doubts Over Indigenous Identity in Academia Spark ‘Pretendian’ Claims

The New York Times
2022-10-15

Vjosa Isai

Indigenous chiefs in traditional regalia during a powwow in July, where Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in abuse in the residential school system. Ian Willms for The New York Times

Some Canadian universities now require additional proof to back up Indigenous heritage, replacing self-declaration policies.

Since announcing discoveries of evidence last year that hundreds of Indigenous children were likely buried in unmarked graves at church-run residential school sites, Indigenous groups in Canada have captured more national attention.

So, too, has a growing group of Canadian public figures, mostly within academia, who have been accused of falsely claiming to be Indigenous.

Earlier this week, an investigation published by Canada’s national broadcaster, the C.B.C., found that the claims to Cree ancestry of a prominent scholar and former judge, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, did not align with historical records and interviews…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Confronting Latino Anti-Black Bias

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-10-21 20:33Z by Steven

Confronting Latino Anti-Black Bias

The American Prospect
2022-10-06

Yalidy Matos, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Latino and Caribbean Studies
Rutgers University

The share of Latinos voting for Trump increased by an estimated eight percentage points between 2016 and 2020. PAUL HENNESSY/AP PHOTO

Civil rights lawyer Tanya Katerí Hernández takes up a sensitive but critical subject.

Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality by Tanya Katerí Hernández from Beacon Press

The Latino vote has confounded Democrats who were expecting it not only to grow but also to become a bulwark of a new progressive majority. While a majority of Latinos voted Democratic in the past two presidential elections, the share voting for Donald Trump increased by an estimated eight percentage points between 2016 and 2020. That shift, along with more recent polling data, has prompted scholars and journalists alike to ask why Latinos would support a party whose nominee for president was overtly racist and anti-immigrant.

In Racial Innocence, Tanya Katerí Hernández points to Latino anti-Black bias as one answer to this puzzle. A professor of civil rights law at Fordham University, Hernández draws on legal cases from 1964 to 2021, individual stories, interviews with leaders, educators, and attorneys, and academic research to make the case for openly discussing and confronting anti-Black racism within the Latino community.

As an Afro-Latina herself, Hernández explains how her own family history motivated her interest in the topic. Her mother suffered mistreatment and exclusion even by family members, part of a larger pattern of colorism in the Latin world that affects family relations, public spaces, educational institutions, workplaces, housing, and the criminal justice system…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , , , ,

Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America on 2022-10-21 19:57Z by Steven

Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

The New York Times
2022-09-07

Linda Villarosa

Mary Seacole’s work on the Crimean front made her a legend in her own time. Credit…Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Florence Nightingale’s Rival Gets the Last Laugh

IN SEARCH OF MARY SEACOLE: The Making of a Black Cultural Icon and Humanitarian, by Helen Rappaport

In the 1970s, a group of Jamaican nurses traveled to England to visit the newly relocated grave site of a swashbuckling nurse who had been born in a small town 80 miles west of Kingston, and had worked as a healer and humanitarian during the Crimean War. At the pinnacle of her fame, “Mother Seacole,” as she was known, was compared to Florence Nightingale, widely considered the founder of modern nursing. But the nurses found her grave in disrepair, “its white marble headstone ‘dimmed with mildew and dirt.’” To honor their heroine, the group — along with the British Commonwealth Nurses War Memorial Fund — created an exact replica, replete with blue and gold lettering, palm trees carved in stone and a flag invoking her service to the crown.

Thus began the renaissance of Mary Seacole. In 1984, a small feminist press republished her best-selling 1857 memoir, “Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands.” In 2004, Seacole was voted the “Greatest Black Briton” in an online poll. In 2016, a statue was erected in her honor on the grounds of St. Thomas’s Hospital. An experimental play, “Marys Seacole” — written by the Pulitzer winner Jackie Sibblies Drury — ran in New York and this year opened in London. Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in an upcoming big-screen biopic…

Read the entire review here.

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

Mexico’s new racial reckoning: A movement protests colorism and white privilege

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Mexico, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2022-10-21 19:29Z by Steven

Mexico’s new racial reckoning: A movement protests colorism and white privilege

The Los Angeles Times
2022-10-20

Kate Linthicum, Staff Writer

An ad greets passersby at the new Mitikah mall in Mexico City. (Luis Antonio Rojas/For The Times)

MEXICO CITY — A few months ago, several employees of an upscale Mexico City steakhouse came forward with a damning allegation: The restaurant had a policy of segregation in which the best tables were reserved for the customers with the lightest skin.

The notion of whiter Mexicans getting preferential treatment was not surprising in a country where darker-skinned people have long earned less money, received less schooling and been all but invisible in the media. But the ensuing public outrage was.

Within days, activists mounted a boycott and the city launched an investigation into the restaurant, Sonora Grill Prime, which denied the accusations. Multiple public figures highlighted the scandal as evidence of pervasive bigotry. “Racism is real,” Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told reporters, using a word long regarded as taboo. “We have to accept that it exists and fight it.”.

For the vast stretch of Mexico’s modern history, many denied that racism existed here at all.

They embraced the nation’s foundational myth that its people are mestizos, a single blended race of indigenous and Spanish blood, insisting that there could be no prejudice if all Mexicans were the same.

But a growing social movement is challenging that thinking, thrusting discussions of discrimination based on skin color to the fore…

Read the entire article here.

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

Striving to Sing Our Own Songs: Notes on the Left not Right in Africana Studies

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice on 2022-09-16 20:53Z by Steven

Striving to Sing Our Own Songs: Notes on the Left not Right in Africana Studies

The Discipline and African 2022 World Report
National Council for Black Studies
pages 186-192

Mark Christian, Ph.D., Professor of Africana Studies
City University of New York, New York, New York

By way of an introduction, the last year or more has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in human insecurity across the globe. Perhaps it is the right time to put some historical context into what this means for peoples of African heritage globally—and more specifically, those located within the borders of the United States. This article will briefly consider the continued battle for Africana liberation, employing a Sankofa perspective—to go back and retrieve for present use. Moreover, there will be a critique of the so-called “Black Radical Left,” as it seems that scrutiny of such scholars rarely occurs. Indeed, many appear “untouchable” in terms of criticism from within Africana studies—yet the same cannot be stated in regard to African-centered scholars who, ironically, argue for largely similar forms of Black liberation. Therefore, while taking into account the developments of the last year for this NCBS annual report, it is necessary to consider some of the various schools of thought in the discipline and the imperative to develop a cross-fertilization of ideas in Africana studies.

In the last 18 months, I have traveled back in time to the 19th and 20th centuries in regard to my research output, completing two major studies (Christian, 2021a, 2021b). It has been palpably worthwhile because one finds that there is nothing particularly original in terms of the struggle for social justice. Of course, there have been major structural changes in the U.S. with the collapse of enslavement in 1865, followed by the ephemeral Reconstruction era, then de jure segregation, followed largely by de facto segregation. Women’s rights have also markedly improved since the 19th century, yet here we are, comfortably into the 2020s, in what could be deemed the “George Floyd era,” wherein the need for racialized justice across the spectrum of society remains ubiquitous. The seemingly insuperable reality of racism remains an ever-present social problem. Meanwhile, Africana scholars, in all their various schools of thought, continue to tackle an array of “isms” in their varied capacities throughout higher education…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

World-premiere recordings honor legacy of William Grant Still

Posted in Articles, Arts, Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2022-09-08 02:24Z by Steven

World-premiere recordings honor legacy of William Grant Still

YourClassical
Minnesota Public Radio
2022-06-29

Julie Amacher, Host

Celeste Headlee and her grandfather, William Grant Still, on a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. Courtesy Celeste Headlee

”It’s crucial to remember this is not new music. These manuscripts have been around for generations. I’m aware that there are many more pieces from William Grant Sill and other composers who have been neglected over the years,” conductor Avlana Eisenberg said about Still, who has 13 world premieres on her latest release, William Grant Still: Summerland/Violin Suite/Pastorela/American Suite. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that this is not a passing phase but momentum that gets carried forth.”

Eisenberg is joined by journalist Celeste Headlee, who is the granddaughter of Still…

Read the article here. Listen to the extended interview (00:41:56) here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

OMB Launches New Public Listening Sessions on Federal Race and Ethnicity Standards Revision

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-09-07 14:27Z by Steven

OMB Launches New Public Listening Sessions on Federal Race and Ethnicity Standards Revision

The White House
Washington, D.C.
2022-08-30

Dr. Karin Orvis, Chief Statistician of the United States

The first step in the formal review process for OMB’s statistical standards for collecting race and ethnicity data is well underway – and the public can now share their perspectives and input.

What we are reviewing: In June, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that my office would begin formal review to revise OMB’s Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 (Directive No. 15): Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. This Directive provides minimum standards that ensure the Federal Government’s ability to compare race and ethnicity information and data across Federal agencies, and also helps us to understand how well Federal programs serve a diverse America

Read the entire press release here.

Tags: , , , , ,

Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-09-06 02:35Z by Steven

Psychological Lens Reveals Racial Repression at Heart of ‘Passing’

University of Kansas
2022-08-31

Rick Hellman
KU News Service

LAWRENCE – While many literary critics have found Nella Larsen’s 1929 novella “Passing” to be frustratingly opaque, and others have concentrated on its themes of same-sex attraction and class consciousness, an essay by a University of Kansas professor of English finds that racial repression is the focus of the novel by analyzing it from a Freudian perspective.

Doreen Fowler said she believed that the shift to a psychological reading explains why the two main characters — Irene, who lives as a Black woman, and Clare, who passes for white — are doubled.

In an article titled “Racial Repression and Doubling in Nella Larsen’s Passing” in the latest edition of The South Atlantic Review, Fowler wrote that the main character, Irene Redfield, “works to erase signs of her black identity — but those signs of blackness return to haunt her in the form of her double, Clare. While many scholars have recognized that Irene is ambivalent about her African American iden­tity and that Clare and Irene are doubled, my original contribution is to link the two. In my reading, Clare is Irene’s uncanny double because she figures the return of Irene’s rejected desire to fully integrate with the black race.”…

Read the entire press release here.

Tags: , , , ,