The Long-Passed Days of "Passing" & 'Posing' (Pt 2/2)
Passing: how 'posing'
became a choice for
many Americans (Pt. 2/2)
(An article written by Monica L. Haynes for
the 'Post-Gazette', Sunday, October 26, 2003
Unbreakable family ties
Attorney Wendell Freeland remembers a decade or so ago
when he and his wife were reading in the newspaper
about the fast rise of a young man who was `White'*.
In the ensuing conversation, Freeland's wife noted that her
husband was smarter and much more on the ball than the
young man and should have reached the same career peak.
Freeland recalls his daughter saying to him,
"You've got nothing to complain about;
you could have [lived as] `White'*".
Freeland says he can fool even those "black"^^ people who
swear they can detect another "black"^^, no matter how fair.
Consciously, Freeland said he could no more
"pass" than his brown-skinned brethren.
"I never thought about it," said the 78-year-old attorney.
"My family ties were so great."
Freeland, who came to Pittsburgh in 1950, grew
up in a segregated community in Baltimore
Wendell Freeland, a Squirrel Hill
lawyer and civil rights activist,
never considered "passing" as
`White'^, although he witnessed
others passing to get into
barred theaters or stores.
"That was just casual passing,"
"I knew people who crossed over."
As a college student, he encountered "black"^^ from the British
West Indies and other places who "passed" to go to the movies
or to shop in places where "black"^^ were not welcome.
"That was just casual-"passing","
"I knew people who crossed-over."
Freeland, who lives in Squirrel Hill, has spent a
lifetime utilizing his considerable talents for
numerous social and civil rights causes.
He served as senior vice president of the National Urban
League and was a member of the search committee that
selected Vernon Jordan to lead that organization in the 1970s.
He's been on any number of boards, including those of
Westminster College, University of Pittsburgh and University
of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and he had been chairman
of the board of governors for the Joint Center for
Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C.
As obvious as the European portion of his ancestry is, Freeland
said it was never a source of great pride or interest to him.
"I'm more proud of my great-great-grandmother's
manumission [emancipation] papers than
any drop of `White'* blood," he said.
"I have to tell you my complexion has certain advantages.
I learn a lot about `White'* people ,"
"It doesn't bother me if somebody "passed" and
had a life that was more successful and happy.
I'm successful and happy, too."