Why Not Pass?

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2022-05-20 15:21Z by Steven

Why Not Pass?


Gila K. Berryman

Illustration by Fran Murphy/YES! Media

The Vanishing Half” deals with the theme of racial “passing” in the 1950s. Passing is different today, but still presents a choice between safety and authenticity

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was one of the most popular novels of the last few years—a bestseller on multiple “best book” lists. The story begins in 1954, when identical twins Stella and Desiree, aged 16, run away from home and their Southern town of light-skinned Black folks. In a year, the twins will go their separate ways, “their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg,” when Stella crosses over to pass as White—she disappears, marries her White employer, and doesn’t look back.

American Whiteness exacts a high price in exchange for its safety and privilege. In order to pass, Stella severs every connection to her previous life so she can hide her true identity, even from her husband. As a result, she can never completely let her guard down around White people, and she refuses to have anything to do with Black people for fear that they might recognize some vestige of her Blackness…

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Shapeshifting: Discovering the “We” in Mixed-Race Experiences

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2021-08-18 15:30Z by Steven

Shapeshifting: Discovering the “We” in Mixed-Race Experiences


Anne Liu Kellor
Seattle, Washington

“I am an Asian American woman. I am also mixed race—my father is White and my mother is Chinese. And I have many questions.”

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been longing for your whole life until you experience it. As a mixed-race woman, I never knew how much it would mean for me to finally sit in a room full of other multiracial women until, at age 45, I taught a creative writing class called Shapeshifting: Reading and Writing the Mixed-Race Experience. I was nervous because I’d never attended something like this myself. And yet, sometimes when it becomes clear that you need something that doesn’t already exist, you have to create it yourself.

I once considered myself to be a shy person, afraid to speak in public. However, my close friends knew me differently, and at my core I knew myself differently too. While I remained quiet in high school, college, and beyond, in intimate spaces I could be bold and funny. When I was younger, I used to think that my insecurities came from my youth or my gender. But the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve also come to question how much of my conditioning— to feel quiet, silent, and invisible—has come from my mixed-race heritage?

I am an Asian American woman. I am also mixed race—my father is White and my mother is Chinese. And I have many questions.

What does it feel like to grow up and never see reflections of yourself or your family in the shows you watch or the books you read, or to rarely see yourself in positions of power?..

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