People who can pass are racial “one percenters,” who by “cheating” the system win access to the specific life they want, the ultimate form of assimilation, the pure embodiment of the American Dream. The reasons are manifold: opportunity, access, safety, adventure, agency, fear, trauma, shame.Some pass to advance themselves or their loved ones to what they perceive is a better quality of life.They can also mobilise the sentiments of European public opinion.
How did they feel about passing when they didn’t intend to?
Have they written about passing before and, if so, has their thinking about it evolved over time?
Patrick Rosal, who writes about being mistaken for the help at the National Book Awards, asked if we had considered disability passing.
Ashamed of his hearing impairment, Rosal realized he was pretending his tinnitus didn’t exist and was passing as a man without hearing loss.
Others feel they’ve been victimized by a system that belittles or erases them.
Passing is problematic because it’s a hack on a racially biased societal construct that shouldn’t exist.Leaving aside the symbols listed in the Constitution, I am thinking of Europe’s buildings (from the Berlaymont to the Justus Lipsius), the European passport, vehicle number plates, cities of culture, etc.Far from performing a ‘cosmetic’ function that is secondary in importance to the function of the four freedoms or of Community policies, the symbols express the deep-seated values of the European Union.Go back further and you’ll find Clarence King, a nineteenth-century blue-eyed white scientist and best-selling author who thrilled in “slumming.” For thirteen years, King passed as a black Pullman porter, complete with a black common-law wife and five mixed-race children.American history is filled with innumerable examples like these.America has a long and complicated history of passing.We’re familiar with the stories of African Americans who passed as white in the past in order to improve their social mobility.Unlike Rachel and Andrea, who are white, his mother was a Mexican American woman who “reinvented” herself as an American Indian named Running Deer and lived that way for decades.He was her unknowing, and then, when he was old enough to understand the lie, willing accomplice in acting Indian.Our other editor, Lisa Page, is a woman whose black great-grandmother passed for white in Mississippi, to get a college education.Lisa’s white mother also passed, as a woman without biracial children.