On passing, wishing for darker skin, and finding your people: A conversation between two mulattos

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-08-23 21:41Z by Steven

On passing, wishing for darker skin, and finding your people: A conversation between two mulattos


Collier Meyerson

In 10th grade, I auditioned for the role of Julie in the musical Show Boat, one of the most famous portrayals of the tragic mulatto trope. I was cast, instead, as Queenie, the mammy. I deserved the part of Julie. I had a good singing voice. But there were no black people in my school to play the part of Queenie.

My first personal tragic mulatto moment.

Playing the mammy in Show Boat made me realize something my black mother had always told me and I never believed: the world did not see me as Julie, trying to manage two different backgrounds. It saw me as black. Specifically, white people saw me as black.

On Wednesday, I spoke with Mat Johnson, the author of Loving Day, a new novel that explores the mulatto experience—one that Johnson sees as a subset of the black experience. And one that the United States didn’t recognize until 2000, the first year the Census collected data on people of more than one race…

CM: I don’t personally pass as white. And I’ve always wondered about others who can. Do you ever choose to intentionally pass as white?

MJ: Every single time I get pulled over by a cop. And I feel guilty as I’m doing it, but you have never met a whiter man than me pulled over by a police officer. I mean, I sound like Gomer Pyle.

When I moved to New York I wondered what would happen if I stopped playing up my black identity. And I basically just let that go. I didn’t cut my hair in a way to look blacker. Didn’t have facial hair in a way that made me look blacker. I wore clothes that were more ethnically generic, just generally bland preppy. And I went through this whole period. It was maybe like a month where I just let that disappear…

Read the entire interview here.

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Lacey Schwartz didn’t know she was black, but her black friends did

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2015-08-20 20:55Z by Steven

Lacey Schwartz didn’t know she was black, but her black friends did


Collier Meyerson

With two white parents and no black family members (save for a dark Sicilian uncle a couple generations removed), Lacey Schwartz was raised thinking she was white. Growing up, Schwartz’s community was predominantly white: her friends, her classes, her summer camp.

But the few black people in Schwartz’s life struck a nerve—and poked holes in the story she told herself and in the story her family told her.

I worked on Schwartz’s documentary Little White Lie, which details her journey from white to black, of being the product of a family secret overloaded with an extramarital affair, love, and betrayal.

During that time, it wasn’t the salacious stuff I was interested in. I wanted to know about how Schwartz came into blackness and who ushered her in. When you don’t grow up with a black parent or in a black community, or even consciously knowing you are black, how do you become black?

I came to learn that the black people in her life made lasting impressions on her—from near and far—even before she had the language or knowledge of her blackness. They pushed her, listened to her, taught and accepted her.

It was black people who always knew Lacey Schwartz was black. No one had the wool over their eyes. So I asked her about it…

Read the entire interview here.

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Join in the #LittleWhiteLie Twitter Chat with Filmmaker @laceyschwartz & More!

Posted in Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 18:12Z by Steven

Join in the #LittleWhiteLie Twitter Chat with Filmmaker @laceyschwartz & More!

#LittleWhiteLie, @lwlfilm
2015-06-16, 20:00 EDT (2015-06-17, 00:00Z)

An online discussion on Race, Identity and “Little White Lies”

Lacey Schwartz, Filmmaker (Little White Lie)
Brooklyn, New York

Yaba Blay, Author and Professor
(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race

Collier Meyerson, Race & Politics Reporter

Michelle Materre, Filmmaker and Professor
The New School, New York, New York

Jamil Smith, Senior Editor
The New Republic

For more information, click here.

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