Racial Passing

By Elizabeth Cali

Racial passing refers to occasions when a person of one racial identity group employs their ability to be regarded as part of another racial identity group. In African American social and political history, this has most commonly applied to African American individuals who can be perceived as white/ Caucasian presenting themselves as part of that racial group. The act of passing in social and political history as well as in literature has many purposes, including preserving an individual’s safety in racially aggressive and dangerous situations or environments and accessing the opportunities and privileges available to white populations and intentionally withheld from Black individuals. Racial passing appears in African American literature most notably in Nella Larsen’s novel about the subject Passing.