‘A Chosen Exile’: Black People Passing in White America

History • Views: 36,953

MP3 Audio

More: ‘A Chosen Exile’: Black People Passing in White America : Code Switch : NPR

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she’d never met nor heard of.

Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it.

Hobbs’ cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she’d graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother.

“She was black, but she looked white,” Hobbs said. “And her mother decided it was in her best interest to move far away from Chicago, to Los Angeles, and to assume the life of a white woman.”

“Her mother really felt that this was the very best thing she could do for her daughter,” Hobbs continued. “She felt this was a way to offer opportunities to her daughter that she wouldn’t have living as a black woman on the South Side of Chicago.”

In California, the young woman passed as white. She married a white man, and they had children who never knew they had black blood. Then, one day, years later, her phone rang.

It was the woman’s mother with distressing news: Her father was dying, and she needed to return home immediately to tell him goodbye.

The cousin replied, “I can’t. I’m a white woman now.”

She missed her father’s funeral, and never saw her mother or siblings again.

Hobbs was haunted by the story, and constantly went back to it in her mind. It made her realize that all the tales she’d heard about passing over the years involved the gains that people expected for leaving their black identity behind. But through her research, she came to understand there was another, critical part of the experience:

“To write a history of passing is to write a history of loss.”

‘Who Are Your People?’

Loss of self. Loss of family. Loss of community. Loss of the ability to answer honestly the question black people have been asking each other since before Emancipation: “Who are your people?”

More at NPR.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
PayPal
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
McCain Associate Invokes Fifth Amendment on Trump Dossier Sources: Report An associate of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it ...
Thanos
5 hours, 53 minutes ago
Views: 91 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Live From Daryl’s House - ‘I’m Alright’On this episode of Live From Daryl's House, Kenny Loggins drops by to get "Footloose" with Daryl and his band.
Thanos
1 day, 6 hours ago
Views: 149 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Author Retraces Her Journey From Survivalist Childhood to Cambridge Ph.D. As a girl, Westover says, "There wasn't ever any question about what my future would look like: I would get married when I was 17 or 18, and I would be given some corner of the farm and my ...
Thanos
1 day, 20 hours ago
Views: 230 • Comments: 2 • Rating: 5
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Florida Republicans Choose Unregulated Murder Weapons Over Children’s LivesI keep drilling this to everyone who discusses this shooting. Republicans value ownership of unregulated murder weapons over children's lives. So much so that they voted along party lines with Stoneman Douglas students watching they voted to decline debate on ...
TDG2112
2 days, 4 hours ago
Views: 254 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Weekend Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Bounds to Record-Shattering $218M-Plus Bow In a defining moment for Hollywood, Disney and Marvel Studios' Black Panther exploded at the Presidents Day box office, bounding to a record-shattering estimate of $192 million for the three-day weekend and a projected $218 million-plus for the four-day ...
Thanos
4 days, 10 hours ago
Views: 501 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Brandi Carlile - the Joke (Official Video) From the album "By The Way, I Forgive You" available now. elektrar.ec Directed by Danny Clinch Produced by Lindha Narvaez for MILKT Choreography by Peter Leung Ballet sequence filmed by Middle Table Productions Connect with Brandi: brandicarlile.com facebook.com @brandicarlile ...
Thanos
5 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 546 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
School Shooter Nikolas Cruz Belonged to White Supremacist GroupThis my surprised face.... BREAKING: Nikolas Cruz, alleged perpetrator in the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was associated with white supremacist group Republic of Florida & participated in the group’s training exercises, according to the group’s leader. More info: ...
Scottish Dragon
1 week ago
Views: 687 • Comments: 2 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Your Medicine Cabinet Knows What AIls Youblog.timesunion.com HOFFMAN FILESYour medicine cabinet knows what ails you.By Rob Hoffman on February 15, 2018 at 5:27 AM1We all fancy ourselves experts when it comes to the human condition. We see our fellow human beings as open books, and we ...
rhoffman
1 week ago
Views: 672 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Comments: 0
: 1
A.G. Schneiderman Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the Weinstein Companies, Harvey Weinstein, and Robert Weinstein NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed suit against The Weinstein Company (“TWC”), Harvey Weinstein, and Robert Weinstein for egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws. The suit, filed ...
Thanos
1 week, 4 days ago
Views: 1,418 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 5 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 2
Comments: 0
: 2
Portugal. The Man - Keep on (Official Video) Portugal. The Man - Keep On Video conceptualized, created and directed by Paulin RoguesFollow Paulin at instagram.com Catch Portugal. The Man on tour:portugaltheman.com WOODSTOCK available now!atlantic.lnk.to Follow Portugal. The ManWebsite: portugaltheman.comFB: facebook.com IG: instagram.comTW: @portugalthemanSC: SoundCloudYT: youtube.comTumblr: portugaltheman.tumblr.com ...
Thanos
1 week, 5 days ago
Views: 1,519 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0