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Racial passing occurs when a person classified as a member of one "racial group is also accepted as a member of a different racial group. The term was used especially in the "United States to describe a "person of color or "multiracial ancestry assimilating into the "white majority during times when legal and social conventions of "hypodescent classified the person as a minority, subject to "racial segregation and discrimination.


In the United States[edit]

Passing for white[edit]

In 1857, fifteen-year-old runaway slave Jane Morrison, blonde and blue-eyed, went to court Louisiana to win her freedom in the case "Morrison v. White. Instances such as late 19th-century "Jim Crow state laws establishing segregation in public facilities, and early 20th-century state laws establishing the ""one-drop rule" for racial classification (as in Virginia in 1924), were examples of European Americans attempting to impose regulations of "hypodescent. Then, someone who identified by appearance and majority ancestry might be described as "passing" for Caucasian. In "Louisiana, "people of color who passed as white were referred to as passe blanc.

The "US civil rights leader "Walter Francis White (who was blond-haired, blue-eyed, and very fair) was of mixed-race background, mostly European ancestry, as 27 of his 32 great-great-great-grandparents were white; the other five were classified as black and had been slaves. He grew up with his parents and family in "Atlanta in the black community and identified with it. He served as the chief executive of the "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1929 until his death in 1955. In the earlier stages of his career, he conducted investigations in the South, during which he sometimes passed as "white to gather information more freely on "lynchings and "hate crimes, and to protect himself in socially hostile environments.

In the 20th century, "Krazy Kat comics creator "George Herriman was a "Louisiana Creole cartoonist born to "mulatto parents, who claimed "Greek heritage throughout his adult life. The 20th-century writer and critic "Anatole Broyard was a Louisiana Creole who chose to pass for white in his adult life in "New York City and "Connecticut. He wanted to create an independent writing life and not be classified as a black writer. In addition, he did not identify with northern urban black people, whose experiences had been much different from his as a child in New Orleans' Creole community. He married an American woman of European descent. His wife and many of his friends knew he was partly black in ancestry. His daughter Bliss Broyard did not find out until after her father's death. In 2007, she published a memoir that traced her exploration of her father's life and family mysteries entitled One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life: A Story of Race and Family Secrets.

Passing as indigenous Americans[edit]

In a limited reversal of the usual pattern, some people of European ancestry have chosen to pass as members of other races.[1][2][3]

In the "New Age and "Hippie movements, non-Native people sometimes have attempted to pass as Native American or other "Indigenous "medicine people. The pejorative term for such people is ""plastic shaman".[4]

The United States actor "Iron Eyes Cody, who was of "Sicilian descent, developed a niche in Hollywood by playing roles of Native Americans. He had claimed American Indian heritage in order to get work.[5]

European-American authors and artists who have notably attempted to pass as being indigenous include "Asa Earl Carter.[1][6]

In the United States, "Jimmie Durham was exposed as a fraud who was posing as a Cherokee artist.[7]

"Jay Marks, a man of Eastern European Jewish ancestry, adopted the pen name of "Jamake Highwater about 1969, claiming to be "Cherokee-"Blackfeet, and published numerous books under that name. He won awards and NEA grants.[8][9][10] Artist Yeffe Kimball claimed to be "Osage.[11]

Professor and activist "Ward Churchill, who advocated for American Indian rights, claimed to be "Cherokee-"Muscogee Creek. His claims were rejected by both tribes.[12][13][14] He was fired in 2007 from the University of Colorado.[15]

The "Wall Street Journal reported on October 5, 2015 that Dartmouth College fired the Director of its Native American Program, Susan Taffe Reed, "after tribal officials and alumni accused her of misrepresenting herself as an American Indian".[16] She previously taught at Dartmouth, Bowdoin College, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[17][18]

To try to protect Native American artists from the claims of non-Native impersonators, the "Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 was passed in the United States. It requires artists to be enrolled members of a "state or "federally recognized tribe in order to claim to be a Native American artist.

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association's Statement on Indigenous Identity Fraud says:

If we believe in Indigenous self-determination as a value and goal, then questions of identity and integrity in its expression cannot be treated as merely a distraction from supposedly more important issues. Falsifying one’s identity or relationship to particular Indigenous peoples is an act of appropriation continuous with other forms of colonial violence.[19]

Passing as African American and other races[edit]

Civil rights activist "Rachel Dolezal, then president of the Spokane chapter of the "NAACP, claimed in a February 2015 profile to have been born in a "Montana tepee" and have hunted for food with her family as a child "with bows and arrows".[20] She primarily identified as "African American and had established herself as an activist in Spokane. In 2015 Dolezal's mother disputed her daughter's accounts, saying that the family's ancestry was Czech, Swedish, and German, with "faint traces" of Native American heritage. She also denied various claims made by her daughter about her life, including having lived in Africa when young.[21] Dolezal ultimately resigned from her position at the Spokane NAACP chapter.

In 2015, Vijay Chokal-Ingam, the brother of Indian-American entertainer "Mindy Kaling, told CNN that he had pretended to be "black years before in order to take advantage of affirmative action to be admitted into medical school.[22] The medical school issued a statement that Chokal-Ingam's grades and scores met the criteria for acceptance at the time, and race had played no factor in his admission.[23]

"John Roland Redd was an African-American musician who was born and raised in Missouri. In the 1950s he assumed a new identity, claiming to be an "Indian named "Korla Pandit and fabricating a history of birth in "New Delhi, "India to a "Brahmin priest and a "French "opera singer. He established a career in this exotic persona, described as an "Indian "Liberace". Two years after his death in 1999, his true ethnic identity was revealed in an article by "Los Angeles magazine editor R. J. Smith.[24][25][26]

New Zealand actors of "Māori descent working in the American film industry — such as "Cliff Curtis and "Temuera Morrison — are frequently called on to play Hispanic roles. Curtis has appeared as a Mexican or Latino characters in at least half a dozen feature films, among them "Fracture, "Colombiana, "Last Knights, "Runaway Jury, "Blow, and "Live Free or Die Hard.

Creole culture in Louisiana[edit]

A mixed-race Creole class developed in Louisiana before the United States purchased the territory. In the early years of the French and Spanish colony, men took enslaved African or Native American women as wives or mistresses. In the Latin culture, the wealthy men often had their mixed-race sons educated in Europe or trained in skilled trades. Gradually a third caste developed, made up of free people of color, or mixed-race Creoles. Creoles were often educated, and many became wealthy property owners. They also formed a community of "artisans in New Orleans. Beautiful young Creole women often became the official mistresses of white French colonists, who provided financial settlements for them and their children in a system known as "plaçage. This enabled them to have their children educated.

Jefferson descendants[edit]

Certainly there were many generations of mixed-race people in the American South. In the later 18th and 19th centuries, they were often the children of white planter fathers and enslaved women. Among the most famous were the multiracial slave children born to "Thomas Jefferson and "Sally Hemings from their long relationship after he became a widower. Hemings was three-quarters white, as her mother was half-black and half-white. Betty Hemings was the daughter of a slave woman and an English sea captain; she became the longtime mistress of Jefferson's father-in-law John Wayles after he became a widower for the third time, and had several children with him. Sally was the half-sister of Jefferson's late wife Martha Wayles Jefferson.

In 1998, DNA studies showed that the descendants of Eston Hemings, Sally's youngest son, were related to the Jefferson male line. Most historians, the "National Genealogical Society, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation of Monticello believe that the weight of historical evidence suggests Jefferson was the father of Eston and all of Hemings' children (who were thus seven-eighths European by ancestry and legally white under Virginia law at the time). The historian "Annette Gordon-Reed was awarded a "MacArthur Fellowship in 2010 for her work on the history of the Jeffersons and the Hemings families (which won a "Pulitzer Prize and 15 other major awards), and for "changing the course of Jeffersonian scholarship" by showing how earlier historians had disregarded or discounted important evidence from slave testimonies.[27]

Treatment in popular culture[edit]





Other countries[edit]

German Jews[edit]

Portrait of "Grey Owl taken by "Yousuf Karsh in 1936. Born in England, he went to Canada and lived with "First Nations people, passing as part "Native American for many years.

In "Nazi Germany and in areas controlled by Germany before and during "World War II, some Jewish people who "looked "Aryan" (in terms of their facial features and "physical appearance in general) passed as "Aryan" and tried to be ""more German than the Germans" in order to avoid "deportation to ghettos or death camps. "Edith Hahn Beer was Jewish and passed as "Aryan"; she survived the Holocaust by living with and marrying a Nazi officer. Hahn-Beer wrote a memoir called: The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust. Another such example is "Stella Kübler, a Jewish collaborator who initially attempted to "hide her Jewish background.

Indigenous peoples of the Americas[edit]

Examples of racial passing have been used by people to assimilate into groups other than European. Marie Lee Bandura, who grew up as part of the "Qayqayt First Nation in "New Westminster, British Columbia, was orphaned and believed she was the last of her people. She moved to "Vancouver's Chinatown, married a Chinese man, and raised her four children as Chinese. One day she told her daughter Rhonda Larrabee about her heritage: "I will tell you once, but you must never ask me again."[36][37]

The environmentalist "Grey Owl was a white "British man named Archibald Belaney, rather than "First Nations as he claimed to be. When asked to explain his European appearance, he lied and claimed he was half "Scottish and half "Apache. Belaney learned some of the "Ojibwe language and wilderness skills, and attempted to live by his "anachronistic idea of what makes someone "Native American.[38]

In Latin America, generational acculturation and assimilation took place via intermarriage. Medium-brown offspring of even dark parents were no longer "black", but were labeled with any of a half-dozen terms denoting class as much as skin tone. Descendants who were European-looking were accepted as white.

See also[edit]


Racial groups[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nolan, Maggie and Carrie Dawson, ed. Who's Who? Hoaxes, Imposture and Identity Crises in Australian Literature. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2004: 16–17. (retrieved through Google Books, July 26, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-7022-3523-8.
  2. ^ Valaskakis, Gail Guthrie. Indian County: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005: 221. (retrieved through Google Books, July 26, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-88920-479-9.
  3. ^ Root, Deborah. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, And The Commodification Of Difference. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996: 102. (retrieved through Google Books, July 23, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-8133-2089-2.
  4. ^ Aldred, Lisa, "Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality" in: The American Indian Quarterly issn.24.3 (2000) pp.329-352. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  5. ^ "Iron Eyes", Snopes
  6. ^ Bataille, Gretchen M. American Indian Representations. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001: 49. (retrieved through Google Books, July 26, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-8032-1312-8.
  7. ^ Boucher, Brian. "Cherokee Artists and Curators Denounce Artist Jimmie Durham as a Fraud, Saying He "Is Not a Cherokee"". artnetnews. Artnet. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  8. ^ Nagel, Joane. American Indian Ethnic Renewal: Red Power and the Resurgence of Identity and Culture. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1996: 238. "ISBN "978-0-19-512063-9.
  9. ^ Hoxie, Frederick E. Encyclopedia of North American Indians: Native American History, Culture, and Life From Paleo-Indians to the Present. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006: 191–2. (retrieved through Google Books, July 26, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-395-66921-1
  10. ^ Weaver, Jace. Other Words: American Indian Literature, Law, and Culture. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001: 138. (retrieved through Google Books, July 26, 2009) "ISBN "978-0-8061-3352-2
  11. ^ Anthes, Bill. "Becoming Indian: The Self-Invention of Yeffe Kimball." Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940–1960. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006: 117–141. "ISBN "0-8223-3866-1.
  12. ^ Richardson, Valerie. Report on Conclusion of Preliminary Review in the Matter of Professor Ward Churchill. Archived June 29, 2012, at the "Wayback Machine. University of Colorado at Boulder. 2005 . Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  13. ^ Brown, Thomas. "Is Ward Churchill the New Michael Bellesiles?" George Mason University's History News Network. March 14, 2005 . Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  14. ^ Harjo, Suzan Shown. "Ward Churchill: The White Man's Burden." Indian Country Today. August 3, 2007 . Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  15. ^ Moloney, Kevin, "Colorado Regents Vote to Fire a Controversial Professor", "The New York Times. July 25, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2015
  16. ^ Frosch, Dan (October 5, 2015). "Dartmouth Removes New Native American Head Amid Ethnicity Questions: Tribes accused Susan Taffe Reed of misrepresenting herself as American Indian". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 9, 2015. 
  17. ^ Jaschik, Scott, "Indian Enough for Dartmouth?" for Inside Higher Ed, September 17, 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015
  18. ^ Pierce, Meghan, ""Dartmouth criticized for Native American Studies hire", "New Hampshire Union Leader, September 19. 2015. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  19. ^ "NAISA Statement on Indigenous Identity Fraud". Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Moncy, Shawntelle (February 5, 2015). "A Life to be Heard". "The Easterner. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  21. ^ Hill, Kip; Wasson, David (June 12, 2015). "Spokane NAACP president Rachel Dolezal's claims about background disputed". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved June 14, 2015. 
  22. ^ Michael Pearson (8 April 2015). "Mindy Kaling's brother: I faked being black". CNN. 
  23. ^ Holleman, Joe (April 8, 2015). "Mindy Kaling's brother claimed to be black for SLU med school". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved January 12, 2018. 
  24. ^ Smith, R. J. (June 2001). "The Many Faces of Korla Pandit". Los Angeles. Emmis Communications. 46 (6): 72–77, 146–151. "ISSN 1522-9149. 
  25. ^ Zack, Jessica (August 15, 2015). "Exotic Korla Pandit hid race under swami persona". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  26. ^ Bradner, Liesl (September 12, 2015). "How a Black Man From Missouri Transformed Himself Into the Indian Liberace". The New Republic. Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Annette Gordon-Reed", MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved February 9, 2011
  28. ^ Mat Johnson on Incognegro["permanent dead link], "Newsarama, November 29, 2007
  29. ^ The title refers to "Black Like Me (1961), a book by the journalist "John Howard Griffin who temporarily passed as black to learn about racial segregation.
  30. ^ Schoenfeld, Jené (2014). "Can One Really Choose? Passing and Self-Identification at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century". In Nerad, Julie Cary. Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. pp. 95–105. "ISBN "978-1-4384-5227-2. 
  31. ^ Menzies, David (May 1, 2014). "10 Angel episodes that were too big for Sunnydale". Den of Geek. Retrieved March 25, 2016. 
  32. ^ "Cold Case: Libertyville (2009)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  33. ^ "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Has a Race Problem". March 7, 2015. 
  34. ^ "'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Has A Major Race Problem". 
  35. ^ Chu, Arthur (March 13, 2015). "Racial Stereotypes Can Be Funny" – via Slate. 
  36. ^ "A Tribe of One". Government of Canada. "National Film Board of Canada. 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  37. ^ Hui, Stephen (May 26, 2003). "Film: The story of the smallest tribe" (PDF). 114 (4). Burnaby, British Columbia: Simon Fraser University. p. 10. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012. 
  38. ^ Donald B. Smith, From the Land of Shadows: the Making of Grey Owl, (Saskatoon: Western Prairie Books, 1990)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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