Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Reverse Passing Conversation

Attention race sociologist geeks (or those interested in racial politics):

Our friends at The Root recently posted three articles, seemingly in conversation with one another, about a recently-coined phenomenon discussed in a new study called "reverse passing." It's arguably a new name for the one-drop rule, however, unlike the one-drop rule, it's individuals themselves, not the U.S. government, identifying people as Black despite White ancestry.

First among these articles, "Reverse Passing? Kidding...Right?", obviously takes a certain position; then, a few minutes later appeared a post titled, "Why Biracial Means Black," only to be followed shortly thereafter by "Passing for Black?" Each article begins by mentioning Barack Obama and delves into the history of racial politics around black identification.

We have a variety of our own views here at The Modern American, but we're interested in what you have to say? Do you "reverse pass"? Is this a misguided description? Throw in your two cents.

1 comment:

  1. This appears to be an effort to come up with a groovy new paradigm to write about, not a real discovery of any kind. (As a writer I can sympathize.)

    Of course, given the completely socially created character of race, any permutation of relationships and reactions is not only possible but probable, from Jewish Nazis to African-American slaveowners to white practitioners of African-based religion. But the institution of white supremacy is still a reality. And the one drop rule still is the main defining principle of race.

    The proponents of this type of"reverse passing" ignore the extent to which being light-skinned is often beneficial, not negative, for one's status in communities of color. A generation or two ago, this was pretty obvious; it's still quite discernible.

    When I first saw the topic, I thought it had to do with people who were clearly "white"by ancestry claiming Blackness of some kind. Novelist Norman Mailer wrote about the White Negro; jazz player Mezz Mezzrow, of Greek ancestry, claimed he became Black by association and of course there are the "wiggers" of recent fame. (This phenomenon seems to have been studied --

    White supremacy is an institution, and is best understood statistically. It's not hard to see that white supremacy shortens the lives and reduces the incomes, savings and freedom of African-Anericans, whatever fascinating permutations race takes in individual lives.