Author Allyson Hobbs joined Roland Martin on “NewsOne Now” to discuss her new book, “A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life.”
Hobbs an assistant professor of American History at Stanford University told Martin that when individuals decided to pass as a White person, “People had to separate from their families … if someone were to die, they would not let the family know” until a month later in some cases.
According to Hobbs, there were instances when people did not find out that a relative who was passing as White had died until they read it in an obituary in a news paper or someone happened to tell them long after the person had passed away.
“They were terrified that Black relatives would show up at the funeral and would destroy this image of Whiteness that the family had so carefully protected,” said Hobbs.
Martin told Hobbs that he had a relative—his grandmother’s sister—who decided to pass. The daughter of this relative is passing as White and as a result, “Kids don’t know that they’re Black because they’re living an actual White existence, right now in Louisiana.”
Hobbs highlighted a number of stories where African Americans decided to pass as White during her chat with Martin. One interesting narrative discussed on “NewsOne Now” involved a woman named Elsie Roxborough from Detroit. She was passing as White and committed suicide in New York City.
To protect her “whiteness,” Roxborough’s family sent her sister, who also looked White to claim her body. Hobbs said, “They wanted her to still be able to be White even in death.”
Watch Martin and Assistant Professor Allyson Hobbs discuss her book, “A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life” in the video clip above.
If you could pass for White would you deny your Blackness for the perceived benefits of being White in America?
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