I’m a Wirdajuri woman (also, British, Irish, and German (Jewish)) living a long way from home in Boston, MA. I’m working on a PhD in African American history.
I am investigating the realities of “passing” in the African American population in contrast to Indigenous Australians, with the occasional dabbling with film, memory, and oral history.
What is passing?
“Passing” was the act of defying racial designation. African Americans with lighter complexions would hold themselves to be white and integrate into white society, cutting off ties to the black community where possible. Passing has highlighted the upward mobility and privilege associated with whiteness. It has also been perceived as an act of betrayal by some African Americans. Racial passing continues to be vehemently denounced within the African American community, where it is depicted as the antithesis of racial pride.
Why choose passing for a thesis?
Australia is currently engaged in a discussion on racial identity, racial ambiguity and Indigenity that has always been apart of my life. This discussion, for me, has simply revealed not only how little the general public know about racial identity but also how rare it is for people to look back upon history to gain insight into the current debate.
I identify as an Aboriginal person, however, I am physically white with European heritage – I can’t even get into the amount of internal crisis this has caused (I’m no migloo). I have grown tired of having a false dichotomy shoved down my throat – I don’t want to have to choose an ethnic group.
I chose to do passing because my maternal great-grandfather was forced to choose an ethnic group. He lived in a racially and politically volatile time so rather than identify as having Aboriginal heritage (and risk having his children removed by the government) he passed as white and refused to acknowledge a part of his identity (publicly).
This account has been created in a desperate attempt to be more productive, while still getting my social networking fix, during my postgraduate years of study. While I’m blogging I hope to reveal some of the complexities of racial identity, share my knowledge of opportunities and tools to make thesis writing easier, and maybe, spread my love for African American history.