Sororophobia By Helena Michie And Black Female Sexuality In Passing By Deborah E. Mc Dowel

1955 words - 8 pages

Historically, people were granted certain rights and privileges based merely on their skin color. Persons of darker skin are often less opportune; persons of lighter skin are almost automatically glorified. However, with the mass interracial breeding, many African American descendants started to look “white” even though they were of “black” descent. Many “mulattos” used this to their advantage to acquire higher social status and respect. The act of identifying as a different race and hiding one’s true race is known as “passing.” In the short novel, “Passing” by Nella Larsen, it follows two childhood friends of mixed-race, Irene Westover/Redfield and Clare Kendry, who later reconnected later in their different adult lives; both appear to have light complexion but one embraces her ancestry while the other tries to “pass” as something else. The latter’s decision usually ends unpleasantly. So while it may seem beneficial to “pass,” the end result is that the truth will come out. Literary articles which critique “Passing” such as “Sororophobia” by Helena Michie and “Black Female Sexuality in Passing” by Deborah E. McDowell discusses the issues of passing. Juanita Ellsworth’s “White Negros” provide scenarios where skin color played a factor in education and professional experiences. Louis Fremont Baldwin’s “Negro to Caucasion, Or How the Ethiopian Is Changing His Skin” explains the different ways people pass and how it can be undetected. Blatantly “passing” as a different race can lead to catastrophe and should be avoided.
People are treated so differently based on the color of their skin. Skin color was a huge deciding factor on marriage and creating offspring. Clare is described to have ivory colored skin despite of her mixed heritage; Clare’s late father was white and her mother was black. Clare was raised by her White Aunts’ after her father’s death and was forbidden to mention to anyone of her mother’s descent. Prior to her marriage to her husband, “there was no one to tell him that [she] was coloured” (Larsen 19). Unbeknownst to Jack Bellew, Clare’s husband, Clare was in fact coloured. Their marriage continues under the assumption that they are a “white” family. Clare could look and play the role of a “white” woman but when it came to genetics, there is no telling how that would turn out. During tea with Irene and Gertrude, another friend of color, the ladies discuss their children. Clare refuses to have another child due to the fear of the child might come out dark. During her first pregnancy, she “nearly died of terror the whole nine months before Margery was born for fear that she might be dark. …. She turned out alright. But [she’ll] never risk that again” (26). Clare would rather end her legacy with one child to maintain the status that she had gained as a person of light skin. Clare wants to increase her likelihood of succeeding in the world but by cutting her legacy short she’s diminishing those chances. Her willingness to hide...

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