Am I Passing for White? (by 'Elizabeth Atkins')
Here are more thought's shared
by 'Generation-Mixed' group
member, Elizabeth Atkins.
AM I PASSING FOR WHITE?
by Elizabeth Atkins
Not the black woman with the
business-like smile in Seafood.
Not the blond-haired, blue-eyed dad tugging
two little boys through Fresh Produce.
Not the Spanish-speaking cashier.
And not the trendy suburban
teen in Baked Goods.
Nope, none of these folks at the grocery
store tonight had a clue about me.
Sure, they were picking up new
products in pretty packaging.
They were reading Nutrition
Information and Ingredients lists.
They were getting a run-down on
what's in the gourmet brownie mix
the granola the garlic-pepper grinder.
But the human package named Elizabeth
as I whizzed past with my shopping
cart offered no such explanations.
They saw the package of sun-bleached hair,
tanned skin and green eyes that sparkle
with special intensity during summertime.
So passers-by probably assumed that
Elizabeth 's main ingredient is `White'.
Yes, my all-American blend includes English
and French, but it also contains Native
American, Italian and African-American.
But if my Multi-Racial mix is invisible
and nobody around me knows it, then
AM I PASSING FOR WHITE?
By simply "being" am I deceiving the world?
I don't owe strangers an explanation
of my ethnic or racial background.
When I'm in the grocery store, I don't
have to stamp an INGREDIENTS list
on my forehead listing the DNA
blend this is unique Brand BLISS.
Because my manufacturer
---- His name is God ----
created this product to serve
humanity as a voice of harmony.
By raising provocative questions about
how we think and talk and evaluate each
other when it comes to race and ethnicity.
That's why I divulge details of my DNA during
speaking engagements in media interviews
in books in poems in conversations with
strangers and right here on my blog.
I explain and reveal because I am
a powerful catalyst for change.
I enjoy sharing my story, my viewpoints, my
experiences, for the sake of edu-taining folks
to think and talk about race and ethnicity with
a new and improved passion for harmony.
This is `the opposite of passing-for-white'.
Back during slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crowe,
the Civil Rights Movement and even now
"passing" is the word used to describe a person
who was white-looking enough to HIDE
his or her African-American heritage
for the sake of social and financial gain.
Lies, deception, denial and self-hatred
were the name of that game.
This often meant abandoning one's
family to start a new life as a white
person, as Sarah Jane did in the 1959
tear-jerking movie Imitation of Life.
Other times, `black' men and women "passed"
during the day to get and keep a good-paying
job that only a white person could getthen
they'd return home (paycheck in hand) to
their `black' families and communities.
But don't think times have changed so much
that folks don't still pass for the perceived
benefits of social and financial gain.
Just watch The Human Stain with
Anthony Hopkins and Wentworth Miller.
Or talk to the dozens of people who
purchased my second book, Dark Secret
a sexy, scandalous story about a biracial
woman who's "passing" as a rich white woman
even as her `black' mother is dying in Detroit !
Too many readers told me stories
about friends and family members
who had crossed the color line
You know that saying, once you
go `black', you never go back?
Well, once they went white,
they were forever out of sight!
My package might say White.
But I proudly display my Ingredients
as a unique face of race in America
(and the grocery store) a sprinkle of
sweetness in our magnificent melting pot
Elizabeth Atkins, © 2003
All Rights Reserved
More of Elizabeth's thoughts about the
Mixed-Race experiences can be found at
her web site http://www.elizabethatkins.com.