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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Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Monographs, United Kingdom, United States on 2021-03-06 22:31Z by Steven

Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

Harper Perennial (an imprint of Harper Collins)
2021-02-23
304 pages
5x8in
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9780063009486
E-book ISBN: 9780063009493
Audiobook ISBN: 9780063009509

Georgina Lawton

Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were white; there was no reason for her to think she was any different. But over time her brown skin and dark, kinky hair frequently made her a target of prejudice. In Georgina’s insistently color-blind household, with no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, she lacked the coordinates to make sense of who she was.

It was only after her father’s death that Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and the racial identity that she had been denied. She fled from England and the turmoil of her home-life to live in black communities around the globe—the US, the UK, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Morocco—and to explore her identity and what it meant to live in and navigate the world as a black woman. She spoke with psychologists, sociologists, experts in genetic testing, and other individuals whose experiences of racial identity have been fraught or questioned in the hopes of understanding how, exactly, we identify ourselves.

Raceless is an exploration of a fundamental question: what constitutes our sense of self? Drawing on her personal experiences and the stories of others, Lawton grapples with difficult questions about love, shame, grief, and prejudice, and reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity.

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My resolution for 2018 is to trace the family who don’t yet know I exist

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-01-22 02:48Z by Steven

My resolution for 2018 is to trace the family who don’t yet know I exist

The Guardian
2017-12-30

Georgina Lawton

Two years ago I discovered I was not related to my white father. Now, I intend to find out the origins of my blackness

When it comes to setting new year’s resolutions, I am not that bothered about losing weight, exercising more, or becoming more productive (although it would be good to finally get a grip on all those things). Instead, I have decided to make 2018 the year in which I make a serious, wholehearted attempt to trace a family who don’t yet know I exist, and to find out once and for all, in as much detail as I can, the origins of my blackness.

No one realises the difficult nature of this task more than me. As I have previously written, I was raised by two white parents who always assured me that I was related to them both, which led me to identify as white until I was about 15.

The nadir of my life came almost two years ago, when my dad died and a subsequent DNA test confirmed my deepest fears, which had wrapped themselves around my life like the tendrils of a poisonous plant. I was not related to my fantastic father; my mother had been unfaithful with a man she knows little about. It had never been spoken about…

Read the entire article here.

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‘If Meghan Markle had darker skin there would NOT be a wedding’ – BBC guest blasts Royals

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-11-29 02:15Z by Steven

‘If Meghan Markle had darker skin there would NOT be a wedding’ – BBC guest blasts Royals

The Daily Express
2017-11-28

Nicole Stinson

PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement sparked a heated debate on racial identity on BBC’s Newsnight following the couple’s wedding announcement on Monday.

The ginger royal and American actress’ engagement was officially announced by his father the Prince of Wales in a statement from Clarence House.

Prince Harry had popped the question to Ms Markle earlier this month in London and their engagement has sparked a debate on race – the Suits actress is the first person of mixed race origin to marry into the royal family.

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, who writes for the online magazine “by women of colour” gal-dem, told Newsnight: “I think if she was darker skinned it would be very unlikely that she would be marrying Prince Harry.”

Her comments were backed by columnist Georgina Lawton who added that if Harry had been next in line to the throne: “I definitely think there would have been more racism.”

She added: “The people who are commenting on this issue and saying we don’t need to discuss race and it is just two people who have fallen in love – I think you need to look at the Prince’s statement last year condemning the racial undertones of the press coverage…

Read the entire article here.

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Shedding my whiteness is a work in progress

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-09-17 02:58Z by Steven

Shedding my whiteness is a work in progress

The Guardian
2017-09-16

Georgina Lawton


Georgina Lawton … ‘In my family, whiteness has been assumed as default.’ Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

A white identity was constructed for me 25 years ago and unravelling it feels like a Sisyphean task

My black side and my Irish side compete for recognition within me, like two separate flames of a fire, dancing around each other, fighting to shine the brightest. Take the other night in London; I was out for a drink with a friend from school when we heard the melody of Irish accents from a group of guys close by, and chimed in to chat. Later, a British-African guy overheard part of the exchange and bemusedly declared that “the Irish men love black women!” Looking decidedly sheepish, the Irish lads asserted that I was Irish, to which the black guy replied, “No – she’s black.” I pretended not to hear and went to the toilet, leaving the projected shadows of who I am and who others think I am, dancing on the walls behind me.

Outside my immediate family, my blackness has been obvious and non-negotiable, but among some of my Irish family, it is up for debate or ignored entirely. A white identity was constructed for me 25 years ago and now unravelling this construct – and asking some of my Irish family to unravel it with me – feels like a Sisyphean task. Shedding my own psychology of whiteness is a work in progress, but when I am back in Ireland it’s easy to revert to default because that’s all we know…

Read the entire article here.

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Living on the borderline: how I embraced my mixed-race status after years of denial

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-08-26 18:38Z by Steven

Living on the borderline: how I embraced my mixed-race status after years of denial

The Guardian
2017-08-26

Georgina Lawton


Solomon Glave as Heathcliff in Andrea Arnold’s 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights Photograph: Artificial Eye

I still have yet to uncover the full truth behind my heritage, but now feel that living in a racial no man’s land can actually be fun

Wuthering Heights has been one of my favourite books since I studied it for A-level seven years ago. I was fascinated by the tumultuous (and oddly asexual) relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff, but mostly with the theme of liminality that runs through the book, and many other works of gothic literature. Liminality refers to something – or someone – that sits on the boundary between two things; it’s a middle ground between polar opposites. Kind of like being mixed race.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but I identified with Heathcliff (he’s a dark-skinned Gypsy anti-hero) because I have been straddling the borders of race liminality my whole life. Growing up brown-skinned in a white family and facing questions as to why that was, I have had to navigate many different racial identities depending on who I was with, never quite owning one…

Read the entire article here.

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What Corn Island taught me about black identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2017-03-22 15:50Z by Steven

What Corn Island taught me about black identity

Girl Unfurled
2016-12-08

Georgina Lawton

“You’re not black here. The locals won’t call you black”.

These were some of the first words uttered to me by a (white, European, male) island inhabitant when I arrived on Big Corn Island.

“You’s a white gyal,” another friend who was born and raised on the island his whole life, told me on the bleach-white sands, one blisteringly hot day.

I remember looking at all the other people, similar in shade to me and I felt… un poco confuso (a little confused).

Why could I not be black here?!

Read the entire article here.

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‘My mum always told me I was white, like her. Now I know the truth’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Europe, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-03-19 01:10Z by Steven

‘My mum always told me I was white, like her. Now I know the truth’

The Guardian
2017-03-18

Georgina Lawton


Georgina Lawton: ‘Even though I would look in the mirror and see a brown, dark-eyed girl, I couldn’t identify as black.’

As a child in a white Anglo-Irish family, Georgina Lawton’s curiosity about her dark skin colour was constantly brushed aside. Only when her father died did the truth surface

You might not think it to look at me, but my upbringing was a very Anglo-Irish affair. I grew up on the outskirts of London with my blue-eyed younger brother, British father and Irish mother. Many happy weeks of the school holidays were spent in Ireland and I was educated at a Catholic school in Surrey. We ate roast beef and yorkshire puddings on Sundays, and Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison and the Clash formed the soundtrack to our lazy weekends.

The only peculiar aspect to all this was the defining aspect of my identity. Because, although I look mixed-race, or black, my whole family is white. And until the man I called Dad died two years ago, I did not know the truth about my existence. Now, age 24, I’m starting to uncover where I come from…

Read the entire article here.

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