Can You Be “White Passing” Even if You Aren’t Trying?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Communications/Media Studies, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Passing, Social Science, United States on 2022-01-12 15:59Z by Steven

Can You Be “White Passing” Even if You Aren’t Trying?

Mother Jones
January-February 2022 Issue

Andrea Guzmán, Ben Bagdikian Editorial Fellow


Lisa Taniguchi

The phrase has become popular on social media. But there’s a lot left out of the conversation.

When pop star Olivia Rodrigo released her album Sour in May 2021, listeners took to TikTok to debate whether she was “white passing.” The question was not really about how Rodrigo perceives or publicly identifies herself. She is of both Filipino and white ancestry. Rather, it was about whether others see her as white. The Rodrigo discourse soon enflamed more general discussion about who deems one “white passing.” As one Iranian-born TikToker explained, she “did not grow up being white” when she came of age in post-9/11 America, but after others began to associate her appearance with whiteness—partially because of the rise of the Kardashians—she now recognizes the privilege of being “white passing.”

The conversation differed from how “passing” has traditionally been used in the United States. In the Jim Crow era—when “one drop” of Black ancestry subjected a person to segregation—“passing” was a deception to assume the privileges of whiteness. From 1880 to 1940, experts suspect about 20 percent of Black men passed for white at some point. It was commonly an attempt to “access things that wouldn’t have been available to them otherwise,” says Nikki Khanna, a sociology professor at the University of Vermont. But it was also a certain betrayal—leaving behind collective uplift for personal gain…

Read the entire article here.

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Brit Bennett’s novel ‘The Vanishing Half’ combines fiction, history in examining passing

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-12-08 20:49Z by Steven

Brit Bennett’s novel ‘The Vanishing Half’ combines fiction, history in examining passing

The Columbus Dispatch
Columbus, Ohio
2021-12-05

Nancy Gilson, Special to The Columbus Dispatch


Brit Bennett Miranda Barnes

In Brit Bennett’s novel “The Vanishing Half,” light-skinned African American twin sisters are separated when one of them decides to pass as white, leaving her family behind.

The novel, which delves deeply into the concept of identity, was a New York Times best-seller and designated as one of the newspaper’s best books of 2020.

Bennett, 31, who grew up in southern California, attended Stanford University and the University of Michigan and now lives in New York. She published her debut novel, “The Mothers,” in 2016. She has written numerous essays, including “I Don’t Know What to Do With Good White People” and “Addy Walker, An American Girl,” about the Pleasant Company’s first Black doll.

These days, Bennett is working on her third novel and occasionally appears in public events, mostly virtual, such as her event Sunday presented by the Columbus Metropolitan Library. She spoke recently by telephone with The Dispatch…

Read the entire interview here.

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Getting into Character: Racial Passing and the Limitations of Performativity and Performance in Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-11-30 01:22Z by Steven

Getting into Character: Racial Passing and the Limitations of Performativity and Performance in Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half

Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Published online 2021-11-22
DOI: 10.1080/00111619.2021.2007838

Ohad Reznick, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel

Judith Butler’s notion of performativity has been criticized because of its overemphasis on the individual’s performance, while it remains questionable how it changes heteronormativity. In the same way that drag performance challenges the man/woman binary, racial passing challenges the White/Black binary. However, whether passing alters the societal perception of race remains debatable. Analyzing the tropes of acting and passing in Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, I argue that the novel delineates a tension between a liberal mind-set, according to which passing exemplifies the performativity of identity and a close-minded perspective, according to which one cannot choose one’s racial identity. While the novel unsettles the line between acting and being authentic, and, analogously, the line between an original racial identity and an adopted one, it depicts most of its characters as refusing to accept racial transformations. Likewise, the novel presents gender identity as performative, but not in the eyes of society.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Passing

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-11-11 21:43Z by Steven

Passing

Signet Classics (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2021-07-06 (Originally published in 1929)
176 Pages
4-3/16 x 6-3/4
Paperback ISBN: 9780593437841
Ebook ISBN: 9780593439074

Nella Larsen (1891–1964)

Introduction by Brit Bennett

Nella Larsen’s fascinating exploration of race and identity—the inspiration for the Netflix film directed by Rebecca Hall, starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga.

This Signet Classics edition of Passing includes an Introduction by Brit Bennett, the bestselling author of The Vanishing Half.

Irene Redfield is a Black woman living an affluent, comfortable life with her husband and children in the thriving neighborhood of Harlem in the 1920s. When she reconnects with her childhood friend Clare Kendry, who is similarly light-skinned, Irene discovers that Clare has been passing for a white woman after severing ties to her past—even hiding the truth from her racist husband.

Clare finds herself drawn to Irene’s sense of ease and security with her Black identity and longs for the community (and, increasingly, the woman) she lost. Irene is both riveted and repulsed by Clare and her dangerous secret, as Clare begins to insert herself—and her deception—into every part of Irene’s stable existence. First published in 1929, Larsen’s brilliant examination of the various ways in which we all seek to “pass,” is as timely as ever.

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Deep Dive with Dorian Warren: Passing

Posted in Audio, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-11-08 16:11Z by Steven

Deep Dive with Dorian Warren: Passing

The Takeaway
WNYC Studios
2021-11-04

Melissa Harris-Perry, Host and Managing Editor

Dorian Warren, Co-host

This month, “Passing,” a new film by writer and director Rebecca Hall premieres on Netflix. Adapted from Nella Larsen’s 1929 Harlem Renaissance novel of the same name, “Passing” is shot in black and white. It’s a complex film likely to revive old debates and provoke new conversations around unresolved and still unspoken meanings of race, class, gender, power, identity, and resistance. For this week’s Deep Dive, Melissa and co-host Dorian Warren use the film as a jumping off point to explore the thorny questions raised by the concept of passing.

Joining Melissa and Dorian to discuss her film and her family’s history with passing is Rebecca Hall. Adding context on the history of passing is Allyson Hobbs, associate professor of U.S. History and the Director of African and African American Studies at Stanford University and author of “A Chosen Exile.” Karla Holloway, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emerita of English at Duke University and author of Legal Fictions and A Death in Harlem: A Novel, discusses how race has been socially constructed over time. Brit Bennett, author of “The Vanishing Half,” explains how she explored colorism in her 2020 novel. Lauren Michele Jackson, assistant professor of English at Northwestern University and a contributing writer at The New Yorker, discusses the idea of “Blackfishing,” which is when white people and even more notably white women, attempt transgressing racial boundaries by adopting a performance of Blackness through darkening their skin excessively, wearing hairstyles and clothing trends that have been pioneered by Black people. Bliss Broyard, author of the award-winning memoir, “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life- A Story of Race and Family Secrets,” talks about finding out in her mid twenties that her father had passed as white for most of his life. And finally, Dean Moncel, a freelance writer based in Switzerland and Aryah Lester, deputy director of the Transgender Strategy Center, join the show to discuss the ways passing emerges around gender and sexuality.

Listen to the story (00:59:26) here.

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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.

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Author Brit Bennett Based Her Hit Novel The Vanishing Half On A Town Near Her Mother’s Home: “Everyone was Obsessed with Color”

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-05-15 23:14Z by Steven

Author Brit Bennett Based Her Hit Novel The Vanishing Half On A Town Near Her Mother’s Home: “Everyone was Obsessed with Color”

PEOPLE
2021-05-10

HBO plans to produce a limited series adaptation of the novel for the screen.

Mothers know best — and sometimes, they know the idea to a best selling novel.

Brit Bennett author of the hit book The Vanishing Half spoke with PEOPLE Every Day host Janine Rubenstein about the inspiration behind the story book clubs can’t stop talking about.

The Vanishing Half tells the story of two twin sisters who grow up to “live their lives off the color line“, one living as a White woman and one as a Black woman. Bennett’s mother, who is originally from Louisiana, once told her a story from her childhood about a nearby town where people were “obsessed with color”, in regards to the color of their skin.

“And, that immediately struck me as, ‘Oh, this is the setting for a novel’,” said Bennett…

Read the entire interview here.

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T Book Club: A Discussion on “Passing”

Posted in Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2021-03-08 03:02Z by Steven

T Book Club: A Discussion on “Passing”

T Magazine
The New York Times
2021-03-10, 00:00Z (2021-03-09, 19:00 EST; 2021-03-09, 16:00 PST)
This event begins at 2021-03-09, 19:00 Eastern Standard Time for viewers in North America.

Join T’s book club, which focuses on classic works of American literature, for a conversation on Nella Larsen’sPassing” led by the novelist Brit Bennett.

The third title selected for T Magazine’s book club, Nella Larsen’sPassing” (1929) tells the story of two old friends, both Black women, who reunite in 1920s Harlem, despite the fact that one of them is living as a white person. Critically acclaimed at the time of its publication, the novel captures the social anxieties that plagued America during the Great Migration and remains a resonant portrait of a fractured nation.

On March 9, watch a virtual discussion of the book, featuring the novelist Brit Bennett in conversation with T features director Thessaly La Force, that will address questions from readers. And, in the weeks leading up to the event, look for articles on “Passing” at tmagazine.com. We hope you’ll read along — and R.S.V.P. above.

For more information, click here.

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The Performance of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-03-08 01:47Z by Steven

The Performance of Racial Passing

The New York Times Style Magazine
2021-03-02

Brit Bennett


The author Nella Larsen, photographed in 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Carl Van Vechten, ©Van Vechten Trust, Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Though Nella Larsen’s classic 1929 novel is understood to be a tragedy, it also exposes race to be something of a farce.

This article is part of T’s Book Club, a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Click here to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation, led by Brit Bennett, about “Passing,” to be held on March 9.

There’s a scene in the 1959 melodramatic film “Imitation of Life” that I have seen dozens of times, but it’s not the one you’re probably imagining: the climatic funeral scene where Sarah Jane Johnson, a young Black woman passing for white, flings herself onto the casket of the dark-skinned mother she has spent the entire film disowning. Instead, the scene that sticks with me is halfway into the movie, when Sarah Jane meets up with her white boyfriend, who has secretly discovered that she is Black. “Is your mother a nigger?” he sneers, before beating her in an alley.

I’m not proud to admit that in elementary school, my best friend and I used to watch this scene over and over again, not because we thought it was tragic, but because we found it funny. The frenetic music in the background, the melodramatic slaps, Sarah Jane’s slow crumple to the asphalt. We knew we were wrong to laugh, but we were too young to take much seriously, let alone a character like Sarah Jane, whom we found more pitiful than pitiable. We’d watched her mope through the whole movie about not wanting to be Black. Well, fine. Go see how she likes it over there.

In a strange way, the beating scene itself is almost structured like a joke. Part of the pleasure of a passing narrative is watching the passer fool her audience; in this scene, however, the audience is aware while the passer is not. Sarah Jane asks her boyfriend to run away together, the boyfriend pretends to consider it. He only has one question: Is it true? Sarah Jane laughs, unsuspecting. Is what true? But of course, we already know the punchline…

Read the entire article here.

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Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2020-12-14 04:04Z by Steven

Brit Bennett – Colorism & Racial Passing in “The Vanishing Half” | The Daily Social Distancing Show

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
2020-12-03

Brit Bennett talks about exploring the effects of colorism in Black communities and the ability to pass as white in her new novel “The Vanishing Half.”

Watch the interview here.

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