Thinking In Colour

Posted in Audio, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2021-05-25 14:23Z by Steven

Thinking In Colour

BBC Radio 4
British Broadcasting Corporation
2021-05-10

Gary Younge, Professor of Sociology
Manchester University, Manchester, United Kingdom

Caitlin Smith, Producer
Tony Phillips, Executive Producer


Bliss Broyard and her father Anatole Broyard (photo: Sandy Broyard)

Passing is a term that originally referred to light skinned African Americans who decided to live their lives as white people. The civil rights activist Walter White claimed in 1947 that every year in America, 12-thousand black people disappeared this way. He knew from first-hand experience. The black president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had blonde hair and blue eyes which meant he was able to investigate lynching in the Deep South, while passing in plain sight.

In a strictly segregated society, life on the other side of the colour line could be easier. But it came at a price.

Here, Gary Younge, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University, explores stories of racial passing through the prism of one of his favourite books, Passing, by Nella Larsen.

The 1929 novella brought the concept into the mainstream. It tells the story of two friends; both African-American though one ‘passes’ for white. It’s one of Gary Younge’s, favourite books, for all that it reveals about race, class and privilege.

Gary speaks with Bliss Broyard, who was raised in Connecticut in the blue-blood, mono-racial world of suburbs and private schools. Her racial identity was ensconced in the comfort of insular whiteness. Then in early adulthood Bliss’ world was turned upside down. On her father’s deathbed she learned he was in fact a black man who had been passing as white for most of his life. How did this impact Bliss’ identity and sense of self?

Gary hears three extraordinary personal accounts, each a journey towards understanding racial identity, and belonging. With Bliss Broyard, Anthony Ekundayo Lennon, Georgina Lawton and Professor Jennifer DeVere Brody.

Excerpts from ‘Passing’ read by Robin Miles, the Broadway actress who has narrated books written by Kamala Harris and Roxane Gay.

Listen to the story (00:28:00) here.

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They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

Posted in Arts, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2021-03-06 22:48Z by Steven

They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

The New York Times
Book Reviews
2021-02-23

Bliss Broyard


Georgina Lawton (Left), Rebecca Carroll (Right) Jamie Simonds/Loftus Media, Laura Fuchs

Georgina Lawton, Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong (New York: Harper Perennial, 2021)

Rebecca Carroll, Surviving the White Gaze, A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021)

For most of us, racial identity is a combination of inheritance (you are what your parents are) and influence (you’re a product of where and how you were raised). But what if you are raised by people who didn’t look like you, in communities where you were the only one, steeped in a culture whose power was amassed through your oppression?

In a pair of new memoirs — “Surviving the White Gaze,” by the American cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, and “Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong,” by the British journalist Georgina Lawton — two women recount growing up as Black girls with white parents who loved them deeply but failed them miserably by not seeing and celebrating them for who they were…

Read the review of both books here.

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Shades of Complexity: A History of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-01-25 03:54Z by Steven

Shades of Complexity: A History of Racial Passing

Literature and Digital Diversity
Department of English
Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
2017-12-11

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Professor of English

Sarah Connell, Assistant Director, Women Writers Project

This archival exhibit was created by Vanessa Gregorchik in Literature and Digital Diversity, fall 2017.

Introduction

On the surface, race appears as a simple category to quantify—the color of one’s skin, the box one circles on the census, even the percentage that appears on an at-home DNA testing kit. But the reality of one’s racial identity is hardly objective. This archive outlines the stories of individuals who chose to “pass” as a different race, or as a portion of their racial background, often in pursuit of societal advancement that their given race prevented them from obtaining. The decision to accept or deny any aspect of one’s identity is a complex and difficult decision, and this collection aims to educate the public on those challenges and intricacies faced by those of multiracial backgrounds in both the era of segregation and today.

Organization

This archive is structured around the environments and dominant factors in each individual’s decision to pass—including emancipation, education, and employment. This division is not intended to claim that these are the sole or even intentional reasons to racially pass, but rather to thematically organize stories that share similar domains. To best tell the narrative of both the individuals and the broader social climate they lived in, I collected individual and family portraits, illustrations, and newspaper clippings. I aimed to represent both the singular person and the communities they were joining or leaving…

Read this entire digital archive here.

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Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-19 21:44Z by Steven

Half and Half

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2007-02-11

Bliss Broyard

David Matthews, Ace of Spades, A Memoir (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007).

Twenty minutes into David Matthews’s first day of fourth grade in a new school in a new city, his classmates surround him and demand to know what he is. When Matthews doesn’t answer, they trail him down the hallway — “as though I were a reprobate head of state ambushed by reporters outside a lurid hotel” — shouting out their guesses: “Black! White! You crazy?! He(’s) too light/dark to be black/white!” One jokester suggests he’s Chinese.

One possible response is that Matthews is mixed: his father is African-American, actually a “prominent black journalist” who counted Malcolm X and James Baldwin among his friends, and his mother is Jewish, although she disappeared to Israel shortly after Matthews was born. But this scene takes place in 1977 in a Baltimore public school that sits between a “Waspy enclave of tony brownstones” and a “world of housing projects, roaming street gangs and bleating squad cars,” and the difference between black and white seems too vast to allow for any unions — or their byproducts — across the conceptual divide. (Although we learn that Matthews needn’t look any further than his own life for exceptions: his best friend, his stepbrother and his half brother are also mixed, though none of them quite so indeterminately as he is.) In the lunchroom, Matthews heads to the table of students he resembles most — in skin color, yes, but also in character. The white kids, with their “nerdy diction” and “Starsky and Hutch” lunchboxes, are similarly introverted and unthreatening, while the black kids, playing the dozens and double Dutch on the playground, are “alive and cool,” and frightening. When a white boy assigned by the homeroom teacher to be Matthews’s buddy for the day makes room for him to sit down, this small, serendipitous gesture sets the dye of his racial identity for the next 20 or so years…

Read the entire review here.

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A Tale of Two Dinners

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-01-24 01:44Z by Steven

A Tale of Two Dinners

The Moth: True Stories Told Live
Added: 2015-05-12
Recorded: 1999-04-19

Bliss Broyard

A daughter discovers her father’s painstakingly kept secret.

Listen to the episode here.

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In other words, Creole can be either black or white, and not necessarily black and white.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-12-14 03:40Z by Steven

Broyard was, according to Henry Louis Gates’s 1996 New Yorker article “The Passing of Anatole Broyard,” some kind of a trickster. The word Creole requires rigorous semantic handling. Just as New Orleans became the home of French, Arcadian, and Haitian refugees, the very word Creole carries an underlying sense of evasion, a connotation of which Broyard clearly took advantage. Broyard’s Creole was an evasion in the same way that “he’d mostly evaded [my italics] the question, saying something vague about ‘island influences’” when Bliss’s mother had once asked her husband about his racial background. The word Creole could have indeed meant “mixed race” for a worldly person like Cheven, but the mixed-race connotation in Creole carries an added value: the mixing of races is not necessarily in a given person, but it can also occur in a given environment between blacks and whites living in the same space and sharing a common history and culture. In other words, Creole can be either black or white, and not necessarily black and white.

Bénédicte Boisseron, Creole Renegades: Rhetoric of Betrayal and Guilt in the Caribbean Diaspora, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014), 31.

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WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-01 01:45Z by Steven

WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Deutsche Welle (DW)
2015-06-19

Bliss Broyard responds to the recent controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezal’spassing” as black, and describes how racial identities have shaped her own life and career.

Download the interview (00:07:55) here.

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One woman’s quest to uncover her heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-08-29 02:23Z by Steven

One woman’s quest to uncover her heritage

The Today Show
2007-11-12

Bliss Broyard writes about her journey to discover her hidden black roots

Bliss Broyard grew up a “Wasp” in Connecticut with her mother, father and brother. For 23 years she was white, but it wasn’t until her father was on his deathbed that she found out he was “part-black.” After her father died, Broyard began a quest to learn more about her hidden heritage and adopt it in her life. She wrote about it in “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life.” Here’s an excerpt:..

Read the excerpt here.

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“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-29 01:46Z by Steven

“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
May 2015
275 pages
DOI: 10.7282/T38G8NJG

Donavan L. Ramon

Ph.D. Dissertation

Instead of concurring with most critics that racial passing literature reached its apex during the Harlem Renaissance, this project highlights its persistence, as evidenced in the texts examined from 1900 to 2014. Using psychoanalysis, this dissertation recovers non-canonical and white-authored narratives that critics overlook, thus reconceptualizing the genre of passing literature to forge a new genealogy for this tradition. This new genealogy includes novels, life writings, and short stories. In arguing for the genre’s continued relevance and production, this project offers a rejoinder to critics who contend that racial passing literature is obsolete. Part one of this dissertation complicates the notion that characters pass only in response to witnessing a lynching or to improve their socioeconomic status, by asserting that racial passing begins in the classroom for male characters and at home for their female counterparts. It thus precedes the threat of violence or middle class aspirations. Whereas the first half of this project is preoccupied with the gendered beginnings of racial passing, the second half examines its effects, on both writing and death. This project explores racial passing in Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun (1929), Vera Caspary’s The White Girl (1929), Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s The Stones of the Village (1988), Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1999), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000), Bliss Broyard’s One Drop (2003) and Anita Reynolds’ American Cocktail (2014).

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Since the publication of my second book One Drop, I have heard from hundreds of people who similarly discovered later in life a previously unknown ancestry, some of whom have had their sense of themselves changed, seemingly overnight, as a result.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-06-16 20:36Z by Steven

Since the publication of my second book One Drop, I have heard from hundreds of people who similarly discovered later in life a previously unknown ancestry, some of whom have had their sense of themselves changed, seemingly overnight, as a result. Sometimes the revelation came as the result of a DNA test, which was then corroborated with some genealogical research. Other times, the discovery of a “MU” (Mulatto) or “B” (Black) on a grandparent’s or great grandparent’s census record had uncovered the truth. With cheaper genetic testing and more and more genealogical records easily searchable online, the number of people discovering they are not what they thought they were will only continue to increase.

Bliss Broyard, “Rachel Dolezal isn’t alone – my family history proves choosing a racial definition is hard,” The Guardian, June 15, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/15/bliss-broyard-father-black-roots-race-ethnicity-rachel-dolezal.

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