Near Black | White-to-Black Passing in American Culture

In the United States, the notion of racial “passing” is usually associated with blacks and other minorities who seek to present themselves as part of the white majority. Yet as Baz Dreisinger demonstrates in this fascinating study, another form of this phenomenon also occurs, if less frequently, in American culture: cases in which legally white individuals are imagined, by themselves or by others, as passing for black. In Near Black, Dreisinger explores the oft-ignored history of what she calls “reverse racial passing” by looking at a broad spectrum of short stories, novels, films, autobiographies, and pop-culture discourse that depict whites passing for black. The protagonists of these narratives, she shows, span centuries and cross contexts, from slavery to civil rights, jazz to rock to hip-hop. Tracing their role from the 1830s to the present day, Dreisinger argues that central to the enterprise of reverse passing are ideas about proximity. Because “blackness,” so to speak, is imagined as transmittable, proximity to blackness is invested with the power to turn whites black: those who are literally “near black” become metaphorically “near black.” While this concept first arose during Reconstruction in the context of white anxieties about miscegenation, it was revised by later white passers for whom proximity to blackness became an authenticating badge. As Dreisinger shows, some white-to-black passers pass via self-identification. Jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow, for example, claimed that living among blacks and playing jazz had literally darkened his skin. Others are taken for black by a given community for a period of time. This was the experience of Jewish critic Waldo Frank during his travels with Jean Toomer, as well as that of disc jockey Hoss Allen, master of R&B slang at Nashville’s famed WLAC radio. For journalists John Howard Griffin and Grace Halsell, passing was a deliberate and fleeting experiment, while for Mark Twain’s fictional white slave in Pudd’nhead Wilson, it is a near-permanent and accidental occurrence. Whether understood as a function of proximity or behavior, skin color or cultural heritage, self-definition or the perception of others, what all these variants of “reverse passing” demonstrate, according to Dreisinger, is that the lines defining racial identity in American culture are not only blurred but subject to change.

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HT Marie Nubia-Feliciano @MNubiafeliciano via @fanshen

Was Cleopatra black?

Was Cleopatra black? Spike Lee thinks so. Even Shakespeare, no Afrocentrist he, called her “tawny” (yellowish-brown). Hollywood, though, makes her white (pictured).

But what do the facts say?

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Census 2020: No consensus on how to count Hispanics, Arab-Americans


Until now, Hispanic identification has been a separate ethnicity question. Those who check off that box are asked to identify what race they are among five — white, black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific island.

But a growing number of people don’t identify with any of the race categories, and 6.2 percent chose “some other race” in 2010. Hispanics accounted for more than 18.5 million of the 19 million people who checked “some other race” to describe themselves.

The Census Bureau has been conducting tests and is now considering combining race and ethnicity questions. “Many researchers very much believe that Hispanic is not a race and must remain a separate ethnicity because they believe Hispanics are of many races,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant to the Leadership Conference and author of “Race and Ethnicity in the 2020 Census: Improving Data to Capture a Multiethnic America,” a report released Monday.


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American ethnic groups: a brief history: 1492 to 2100

The mix of people who live in what are now the 50 United States (and DC) has changed greatly over the past 500 years and will probably keep on changing till at least 2100. Here are four snapshots (…

I love the graphics and all the work Abagond put into this article.
It will be interesting to see what the Mixed Race numbers look like over time, or if governments will continue to reclassify mixed race people into mono racial groups.

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Mixed-race teens talk about identity

Mixed-race teens share their personal perspectives on how they view themselves—and how others view their mixed-race heritage. These essays were part of the cover story, “Outside the box,” about how mixed-race teens identify themselves on college applications in the Nov. 15, 2012 issue of The Mash.
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Despierta: Conversations on Race and Ethnicity

If you’re in Chicago and would like to practice the fine art of Race Talk, consider attending Despierta: Conversations on Race and Ethnicity on Friday, September 6th.  This is the first of several …

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See on Scoop.itCommunity Village Daily

Ethnic is a Eurocentric way of saying non-Western. In America since the 1920s it has meant something not part of White American culture: ethnic foods, ethnic beauty, ethnic neighbourhoods, etc. “Et…

Community Village‘s insight:

Part of Mixed American Life is recognizing that EVERYONE has an ethnic background.

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Genomics in Patients with Hispanic ancestry

See on Scoop.itMixed American Life

“Pharmacogenomics in the global landscape: Pharmacogenetics and Ethnicity

Speaker: Adrian Llerena, CHMP-Pharmacogenomics Working Party member

Workshop on Pharmacogenomics: from science to clinical care (8 October 2012)”

Glenn Robinson‘s insight:

This video covers some of the controversial topics within Critical Mixed Race Studies.

The video is also interesting in what it leaves out. Toward the beginning of the video he shows a map of the world and supposedly does not could the U.S. as having Hispanic Latinos. That’s just too funny, but in a sad ignorant way.

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Conservatives baffled at idea of white Hispanic people

Via Scoop.itMixed American Life

“OK, guys. Here’s the thing. I know all of you don’t actually give a single shit about ethnic identity and are in fact simply trolling as part of a pathological need to deny the existence of racism, but “Hispanic” is not a race. The U.S. Census has a handy, easy-to-remember definition: “‘Hispanic or Latino’ refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.” If “white” means “descended from Europeans” then guess what? A lot of people from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and South and Central America are white, even though they speak Spanish and you are racist against them.”


Community Village: It’s time to replace the “White” ethnic label in the U.S.

Via Scoop.itCommunity Village Daily Activist

Using the word European-American makes European-American’s sound like foreigners. (Which they are – but European-Americans don’t want to have a foreign sounding label. Another issues is that using the word “White” is perpetuating a false brand of purity, goodness, and cleanness.
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