Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity
Publication Year: 2012
Everybody passes. Not just racial minorities. As Marcia Dawkins explains, passing has been occurring for millennia, since intercultural and interracial contact began. And with this profound new study, she explores its old limits and new possibilities: from women passing as men and able-bodied persons passing as disabled to black classics professors passing as Jewish and white supremacists passing as white.
Clearly Invisible journeys to sometimes uncomfortable but unfailingly enlightening places as Dawkins retells the contemporary expressions and historical experiences of individuals called passers. Along the way these passers become people—people whose stories sound familiar but take subtle turns to reveal racial and other tensions lurking beneath the surface, people who ultimately expose as much about our culture and society as they conceal about themselves.
Both an updated take on the history of passing and a practical account of passing’s effects on the rhetoric of multiracial identities, Clearly Invisible traces passing’s legal, political, and literary manifestations, questioning whether passing can be a form of empowerment (even while implying secrecy) and suggesting that passing could be one of the first expressions of multiracial identity in the U.S. as it seeks its own social standing.
Certain to be hailed as a pioneering work in the study of race and culture, Clearly Invisible offers powerful testimony to the fact that individual identities are never fully self-determined—and that race is far more a matter of sociology than of biology.
For more, including photos, author interviews, news, and author appearances, visit ClearlyInvisibleBook.com.
Published by: Baylor University Press
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Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph
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List of Illustrations
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Passing is a strange thing. It has a large circumference. It is a way for us to see and not see, a way for us to be seen and time. Passing shifts our social positions amidst social limitations. demands that we think hard about issues of identity and rhetoric, of the public and the private, in ways that most of us are privileged enough to ignore if we so choose. But if we pay attention, pass-...
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No book is written alone. This book would be unwritten with-out the encouragement, insights, and contributions of the fol-A. Sanchez, Stacy L. Smith, Colleen Keough, Robin D. G. Kelley, Ebony A. Utley, Ulli K. Ryder, Steven Mallioux, Leticia T. Suarez, of such strength and complication. I hope these words adequately integrity, and the ways they shared their diverse knowledge and ...
Introduction: Passing as Passé?
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On rare occasions I find an expression that is sassy, succinct, and thus sexy enough to make its veracity inconsequential. Such is the case with a phrase coined by historians decades ago: “Passing is passé.”1 Passing, usually understood as an abbrevia-tion for “racial passing,” describes the “fact of being accepted, or representing oneself successfully as, a member of a different” ...
1. Passing as Persuasion
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It was one o’clock in the morning when I made a startling discov-ery. Insomnia led me to my iPad in search of new applications to pass the time. While scrolling through the iTunes App Store I sists of a ten-question “quiz” that presents striking portraits of real people’s faces.1 The user is asked to guess how these otherwise the person actually identifies him- or herself, or how he or she is ...
2. Passing as Power
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In December 1848, Ellen and William Craft ended their lifelong search for answers. Ellen was at her master’s plantation, and months, even years. Nothing else mattered: How could they deter-be together? How could they guarantee that no one else in their Telling no one, the couple thought of countless ways that might be tried. Finally it dawned on William and Ellen that “slaveholders ...
3. Passing as Property
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Forty-six years after the Crafts boarded a train in Georgia to use passing as power, Homer A. Plessy boarded a train in Louisiana to use passing as property.1 The plan was simple: imbue passing with a new meaning that would be exploited to challenge section 2 of Act 111 of the 1890 Louisiana legislature, An Act to Promote the ing was property. The challenge was simple enough: Pass as white. ...
4. Passing as Principle
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Iola and Harry Leroy grew up thinking they were white. Their father was white. Their mother was white. Their grandparents and aunts and uncles were white. Their family even owned slaves. they were not white after all. Frances E. W. Harper brings this scenario to life in her novel Iola Leroy, or, Shadows Uplifted, dem-onstrating how passing eloquently connects the realities of fiction ...
5. Passing as Pastime
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Coleman Silk is not the only passer in The Human Stain. Crammed with passers of all sorts—racial, ethnic, class, professional, ability, mental health—the story is set during the ings in 1998 and during the postwar era of the 1940s and 1950s. Because lines of race and color are the most entrenched in these settings, and because Coleman is the only racial and ethnic passer, ...
6. Passing as Paradox
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Many of us have been on jury duty hoping not to be selected to serve for trial. And if we have not been on jury duty or served as jurors, we have probably witnessed depictions of others “Have you heard anything about the case from any source?” We answer, “No.” Lawyers ask, “Do you know the defendant(s)?” Again, we answer, “No.” Seeking out our hidden prejudices and ...
Conclusion: Passing as Progress?
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Every story of passing is both an ending and a beginning. Passing is an ending because it discourages inquiry. It invites us to pass by, to keep moving, and not to look beneath surfaces. Passing tempts us to accept people as they appear to us and, there-conversation, however, leads us to see passing as a beginning and as an invitation for us to interrogate our innermost selves, our ...
Appendix: Passwords for Passing
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Page Count: 285
Illustrations: 5 b/w images
Publication Year: 2012