Lost kin

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-07-20 02:26Z by Steven

Lost kin

University of Chicago Magazine
May/June 2015

Allyson Hobbs, Assistant Professor of History
Stanford University

Excerpt from A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life by Allyson Hobbs, published by Harvard University Press. Copyright © 2014 by Allyson Hobbs. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

“Going as white” permanently created confusion as some family members disappeared across the color line, creating gaps in family genealogy. One woman explained, “My father’s people, half of them pass for white so naturally I know nothing about hardly any of them.”

For others, embarrassment and shame prevented an open discussion of family history: “Not much has been disclosed about the Patterson family. It is our guess that there were too many blood mixtures of which the immediate family is not any too proud to relate. … That this family has many skeletons is without a doubt true.” Merthilda C. Duhe wrote that her father used passing as a strategy to create a new life for himself; she knew little about him or his family because he left New Orleans and “deserted the family while they were very young and went over to the white side in Chicago.”

Others expressed uncertainty about the racial backgrounds of their ancestors. One man questioned his grandfather’s race and explained, “Father was always sensitive about that side of his family.” When asked whether her relatives in Detroit “go for colored or do they go for white,” Mrs. Clemens responded, “I don’t know, and I don’t know what I am. We are 100 per cent American and that is all we can say.” Raymond Brownbow did not know much about his maternal grandmother, a mixed- race house servant who was “described as being very nearly white.” As he explained, “I know very little about her, because it seems that my mother was and is a bit reluctant to discuss her. I remember my mother once telling me that she couldn’t stand the remarks that people would make upon learning of her mother’s mixed blood, and for that reason she refrained from talking much about her.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,

Crossed lines

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-05-26 15:35Z by Steven

Crossed lines

The University of Chicago Magazine
May-June 2015

Lydiayle Gibson

Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09. (Photography by Jennifer Pottheiser)

A secret in her own family led Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, to uncover the hidden history of racial passing.

“You know, we have that in our own family too.” That was the bombshell, the offhand remark that plunged historian Allyson Hobbs, AM’02, PhD’09, into a 12-year odyssey to understand racial passing in America—the triumphs and possibilities, secrets and sorrows, of African Americans who crossed the color line and lived as white. As a first-year graduate student at the University of Chicago, Hobbs happened to mention to her aunt the subject of passing, a casual curiosity sparked by the Harlem Renaissance writers she was reading in school. Her aunt responded by telling her the story of a distant cousin from the South Side of Chicago who disappeared into the white world and never returned.

That story opens Hobbs’s book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Harvard University Press, 2014), a lyrical, searching, and studious account of the phenomenon from the mid-19th century to the 1950s. Hobbs’s cousin was 18 when she was sent by her mother to live in Los Angeles and pass as a white woman in the late 1930s. “And our cousin—and this was the part of the story that my aunt really underscored—was that our cousin absolutely did not want to do this,” Hobbs says. “She wanted to stay in Chicago; she didn’t want to give up all her friends and the only life she’d ever known.” But her mother was resolved. And so the matter was decided.

Ten or 15 years later, her cousin got what Hobbs calls an “inconvenient phone call.” Her father was dying. And her mother wanted her to come home right away. “And she says to her mother, ‘I can’t come home. I’m a white woman now.’” She was married to a white man; she had white children. “So she never goes back,” Hobbs says.

Many threads weave through A Chosen Exile, released last fall to glowing reviews: the meaning of identity, the elusive concept of race, ever-shifting color lines and cultural borderlands. But by far the book’s most potent thread is about loss. “The core issue of passing is not becoming what you pass for,” Hobbs writes in the prologue, “but losing what you pass away from.” Historians have tended to focus on the privileges and opportunities available to those with white identities. Hobbs reckons with the trauma, alienation, and scars—not only for those who passed, but also for those they left behind. In letters, unpublished family histories, personal papers, sociological journals, court cases, anthropological archives, literature, and film, she finds “a coherent and enduring narrative of loss.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,

Investigations: Problem behavior

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-02-18 21:34Z by Steven

Investigations: Problem behavior

University of Chicago Magazine
October 2006
Volume 99, Issue 1

Lydialyle Gibson

For American children, says Yoonsun Choi, assistant professor at the School of Social Service Administration, early adolescence isn’t getting any simpler. Besides the awkwardness and looming angst, there’s this: more and more youth now find themselves navigating the uncertain territory of multiracial heritage. (Even the term is ambiguous; it can refer to having parents of different races or to generations-old diversity.) The multiracial experience frequently corresponds, Choi says, with higher rates of violence and substance use. “Consistently multiracial youth show, in almost all behavior problems—alcohol, smoking, marijuana, fighting—more problems than other children.”…

…“However, there is some indication that a strong ethnic identity” with at least one race—a sense of racial or cultural pride, belonging, and confidence—“helps protect kids from these behaviors,” Choi says. But youths must strike a sometimes difficult balance. “This research is just emerging, but it is saying that ethnic identity for multiracial children is unique. They need to endorse every part of who they are, and for children of combinations from conflicting groups”—for instance, black and white or, Choi says, Asian and black—“that will be hard.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,