The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2022-05-16 19:38Z by Steven

The Burdened Virtue of Racial Passing

The Boston Review

Meena Krishnamurthy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

A still from Rebecca Hall’s film Passing, based on the 1929 novel by Nella Larsen. Image: Netflix

Though a means of escaping and undermining racial injustice, the practice comes with own set of costs and sacrifices.

In Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing, adapted by Rebecca Hall and distributed on Netfli­x last fall, Clare Kendry—a light-skinned Black woman—decides to pass as white. Clare grows up poor in Chicago; after her alcoholic father dies, she is taken in by her racist white aunts. When she turns eighteen she marries a rich white man who assumes she is white. Clare makes a clean escape until, some years later, she runs into her childhood friend, Irene Redfield, at a whites-only hotel; Irene, it turns out, sometimes passes herself, in this case to escape the summer heat. The storyline traces their complex relationship after this reunion and ends in tragedy for Clare.

Hall’s film adaptation joins several other recent representations that dramatize the lived experience of passing. The protagonist of Brit Bennett’s best-selling novel The Vanishing Half (2020), for example, decides to start passing as white in the 1950s at age sixteen after responding to a listing in the newspaper for secretarial work in a New Orleans department store. Much to her surprise, after excelling at the typing test, Stella is offered the position; her boss assumes she is white. Initially Stella keeps up the ruse just to support her and her sister, but passing also becomes a way for her to escape the trauma of her father’s lynching and the prospect of her own…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Racial Politics of Mixed Race

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2010-08-27 03:54Z by Steven

The Racial Politics of Mixed Race

Journal of Social Philosophy
Volume 30, Issue 2, Summer 1999
pages 276–294
DOI: 10.1111/0047-2786.00018

Lisa Tessman, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies
Binghamton University, State University of New York

Recently there has been an increasing amount of attention given in academic, political, and popular settings in the United States to the experience and identities of mixed-race or multiracial people.  In the academic realm, there is a growing body of work that can generally be called mix-race racial theory, including, for instance, pieces anthologized in Maria P. P. Root’s 1992 and 1996 volumes Racially Mixed People in America and The Multiracial Experience, and Naomi Zack’s 1995 collection American Mixed Race.  There are also many popular autobiographical pieces about mixed race, several periodicals devoted to mixed-race people, a deluge of talk shows on the subject, and both local and national organizations that serve as support groups or political interest groups for mixed-race people.  Much of the more theoretical work emphasizes the issue of individual rights for mixed-race people—particularly the right to an “accurate” racial identity on forms such as the Census.  An enormous portion of the literature also analyzes the experiences of mixed-race individuals from a sociological or psychological point of view. Frequently the discussion of the rights of mixed-race people in fact draws upon the social scientific research that indicates that such things as the lack of opportunity to identify officially as mixed race or multiracial has detrimental effects on the self-concept, self-esteem, and development of mixed-race people, particularly children…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: ,