Racial Identity and the Shadow of Jim Crow in the Black Community

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-10-12 03:00Z by Steven

Racial Identity and the Shadow of Jim Crow in the Black Community

(1)ne Drop Project

Kimberly Bernita Ross
Michigan State University

My grandmother Bernice was born in New Orleans in 1918 to a Black mother and a White father at a time when interracial marriage was illegal. Her mother, Roseanna, a maid in a White home, had a relationship with her employer’s son. Grandma Bernice was born with blue eyes, straight hair, and white skin, and was raised by a brown-skinned mother in the Jim Crow south. Her life was marred with instances of social confusion, isolation and abuse from others because society was not prepared to handle racial ambiguity. To say however, that Grandma Bernice was merely the iconic tragic mulatto, as depicted in 19th century American literature, like Nella Larsen’s novels, Quicksand and Passing, would simplify her experience and bypass an opportunity to analyze racial identity. These depictions, at times, reduce struggles with racial identity to individual human drama, divorcing this inner conflict, from the racist society that created it. Today, at a time when some people seem to have race fatigue, the truth is, as we continue to become a more cosmopolitan world, it would be to our collective advantage to become more race savvy, beginning by looking at the past. My grandmother’s story reveals the impact of state imposed identity and how in the Black community, racism and Jim Crow still overshadow our relationships and perceptions of racial identity…

Read the entire essay here.

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