PASSING FOR WHITE – from “Our Kind of People” – by Lawrence Otis Graham

PASSING FOR WHITE – Book feature by

9/13/17 – Today’s selection — from Our Kind of People by Lawrence Otis Graham. “Although I spent six years researching Our Kind of People, I could never have been prepared for the controversy it elicited from various groups upon its initial publication.” So wrote Lawrence Otis Graham in the most recent edition of his hotly debated 1999 book. In this book, Graham, a Harvard-trained lawyer with an undergraduate degree from Princeton and a best-selling author of 14 books, wrote of class divisions within black society.

In one particularly controversial chapter, he wrote of light-skinned black Americans who attempted to “pass” as white. To do so they often “divorced” from family and friends to help ensure that they weren’t discovered while trying to create a new life as a white person. In one heartbreaking story, he tells of a black woman growing up in the 1950s and 1960s whose father went to great lengths to hide not only his own skin color, but hers as well:      

“Unfortunately, there is a high price to be paid by family members­ — particularly the children of blacks who pass. There are many stories of families who have been polarized on the issue of racial passing. …  Read more: 


Excerpt taken from: Pages 389 – 393
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Copyright 1999 HarperCollins Publishers
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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On September 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm


  • Ken Corsbie  On September 13, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    What about those millions of people with a white parent and a black parent, and who deny their white parent (Mother of Father) to call themselves black?

  • Gigi  On September 14, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    @ Ken Corsbi, I’ve never read/heard of blacks who deny having a white parent so that they can call themselves black. Two reasons that come to mind are:
    1. The one drop rule – having one drop of black blood makes one black; hence the saying once you go black you can’t go back. So having a white parent makes no difference under this rule.
    2. Light skin blacks are esteemed over dark skin blacks, even in black society, making this an advantage. No one wants to be put/place at a disadvantage. It’s the reason many people lie to ‘big up’ themselves. One way to tell if a dark skin person uses/has used skin whitening cream is to notice their eyebrows. One of the main ingredients in skin whitening creams – can be either mercury or quinine – causes hair to fall out, which is most noticeable on the eyebrows.

    Now, this part might read like fiction but it is not. The worst genocide in history occurred in Africa between blacks in the 21ST CENTURY/ MODERN CIVILIZATION. Not during the caveman era or leading up to civilization, but in modern times among a group of the same race people similar in both culture and belief system. And how did it happen? Quite easy. All it took was a white foreigner simply telling them no, they are not alike because well, this one’s nose is broader and flatter, this one is shorter in height, this one is stockier, this one is maybe darker. Going so far as to issuing 2″ by 3″ pieces of paper/id cards to them labeling them either Hutu or Tutsi when all the other tests failed to produce the desired result – a minority/majority separation of the people. It was that easy! And this incredulous but horrific act was all it took for blacks to turn on their own and brutally and senselessly massacre one other. All based on a 2×3 inch piece of paper devised and issued by the white man stating one is either Hutu or Tutsi. Education, education, education. It’s the only hope for humankind.


  • Gigi  On September 14, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    This song, from one of my favorite Disney movies, sums up this predicament. Children’s movies are famous for their subliminal messaging…

  • walter  On September 15, 2017 at 10:49 am

    The more things change the more they stay the same. Watermelon Man
    African-American activist and actor Melvin Van Peebles directed this comedy-drama starring Godfrey Cambridge as Jeff Gerber, a white, middle class husband to Althea (Estelle Parson) and father of two who is also a mild bigot. One morning, Jeff wakes up to discover that he has become a black man overnight. After trying in vain to remove his new pigment, Jeff ventures out into the world, only to discover the hostility he once engendered himself. After his neighbors petition to get him out of the neighborhood, his boss (Howard Caine) tries to use his new identity to the company’s advantage and his doctor suggests he seek medical care elsewhere, Jeff comes to see the many sides of racism. The only rays of hope in his situation are the friendship of several fellow black people, including a bus driver (D’Urville Martin) and a restaurant counter man (Mantan Moreland).

  • Youman  On September 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    There is plenty favouritism for white skin rather than black skin in all cultures.

    If you look at the bollywood films the leading female is always fair & white

    They are not going to give this role to a black face woman are they? Even if they are attractive they are deemed ugly because of their blackness.

    Also the dark skinned actor has got plenty of makeup on making him look desirable. You can tell by the black hands.

    This is all racist and laughable . These people need to grow up and stop living in the past.

  • tata  On October 11, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    Granted, skin whitening creams are a million dollar industry in India, which goes to show how the color of one’s skin takes precedence over common sense. SAD!

    Just think how beautiful Black and White look together. Not White and yellow!

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