Tag Archives: passing

To Be Young, Gifted, and Mixed? Jean Toomer’s Cane and Questions of Identity

by Latoya Peterson

Cane book cover

Who exactly is Jean Toomer?

Scholars, academics, and American literature buffs know him as the author of Cane, one of the landmark works to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance.

And yet, Toomer’s legacy is a bit more complicated than just his work. Back in the 1920s, in spite of segregation, Toomer articulated a vision of multiracial identity that was rejected by the norms of the time. Splitting time between exclusively white and exclusively black environments, Toomer decided that he was neither – he considered himself an American, a mixture of several different races and nationalities. However, he grew increasingly frustrated with the restrictions placed upon him due to his identification with black literature – in later life, he allegedly denied having any “colored blood.” As a result of this, Toomer’s legacy and the meaning of Cane has been left open for wide open for interpretation – and a new release of Cane has done just that, with scholars Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Rudolph P. Byrd, asserting that Toomer wasn’t pioneering a new identity – he was trying to pass for white. Continue reading

What race are you going to be for Halloween?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

not cuteHalloween is the one time of the year when it’s socially acceptable to prance around half-naked and take cultural appropriation to a whole new level by actually dressing up as people of different ethnicities. Hmmm… maybe I’ll go blonde and pass for white this year.

Thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, it’ll be even easier this year to keep track of all the racist Halloween costumes for sale. I read about a new site called Costumezee on TechCrunch (yes I’m a nerd) the other day:

Search by tag, see related costumes, review costumes, give costume ideas ratings by stars, build your profile – it’s a little hard to find the RSS URL for a search but other than that Costumezee is very 2.0 and the company knows it. You can also view other users’ lists of costume ideas, so if you’re dying to find out what Michael Arrington is going to dress up as this year (?) perhaps you’ll be able to find out after he reads this post. The most important part of the site is that users can make their own costume suggestions – this is more than just a one way trip through affiliate links.

Check out the tag cloud: it’s fascinating to see what people are searching for. Apparently people are all about the creepy Burger King dude this year. But apart from that, popular searches include harem girl, pocahontas, sumo wrestler, indian warrior, egyptian queen, hula dancer, belly dancer, and my personal favorite: breasts.