Category Archives: Passing(Film)

Gazing on Colorism and Passing

Looking through these texts such as “Passing” in 1929 written by Nella Larson, gazing or looking at  “the other” is central. Although when it comes to gazing it is shown in a different variety of ways. Two of the ways I would like to speak on and emphasize on are colorism and passing and how it’s demonstrated and represented in the reading “Passing”.  Colorism is defined as “A preference for lighter skin tone and denigration of darker skin tone.” Passing is defined as “Passing (in contest of Harlem Renaissance) Typically involves a person of Black/African American descent appears to be white claiming to be white” I felt this represented in Passing how Clare knew the advantages of being white, in order to live a better life, she decided to pass as white by dressing, marrying and how she acts as well. Clare when it came to speaking to different types of people, I felt that she had a switch on how she carried herself. In the article “Colorism vs. Racism: What’s the Difference?” it explains the history dating back to slavery. According to the monks, Many of the lighter-skinned enslaved individuals were also the children of their slave masters, and because of their lighter skin they had. They began to internalize the belief that they were more privileged or advantageous than their darker counterparts. 

Throughout the beginning of the novel in Part 1 “Encounter” in Passing, it starts with the gaze with demonstrating Irene on her point of view on the letter that she receives from Clare and she tries to see how it differentiates compared to the rest. This can demonstrate the figurative language and symbolism that has been portrayed and also when it comes to describing the letter. According to Passing, it states “After her other ordinary and clearly directed letters the long envelope of thin Italian paper with its almost illegible scrawl seemed out of place and alien. And there was, too, something mysterious and slightly furtive about it.” (Passing, 3). This quote represents how Irene is describing the letter and how it’s fancy and that it’s thin Italian paper. Also how the letter is unusual and out of place and alien compared to the rest of her mail. 


Another way that focuses on and emphasizes on colorism and passing and how it’s demonstrating this gaze in “Passing”  is when Jack greets his wife Clare as “Hello Nig  (Passing, 66). When this occurred Irene was in shocked and stunned that Clare would let her husband call her that and that’s when she gazed at Clare and her husband Jack. According to Passing, it shows “…Irene, who had caught her lip between her teeth and sat gazing at husband and wife. It was hard to believe  that even Clare Kendry would permit this ridiculing of her race by an outsider, though he chanced to be her husband.” (Passing, 66). This quote represents and demonstrates how Clare lets Jack make fun of her and a fool of her race and lets him mock her as well and not defend her race at all, especially in front of Irene. This can determine how passing and colorism are being shown in the novel because since Clare passes as white but her husband Jack still notices Clare’s skin getting darker. According to Passing, it states “He explained: “Well, you see, it’s like this. When we were first married, she was as white as–as–well as white as a lily. But I declare she’s gettin’ darker and darker.” (Passing, 67). This quote shows that Jack was comparing Clare’s skin color before and after her skin got darker over time. 


Also seen according to Color Struck by Zora Neale Hurston, “Ah, mah God! He’s in there with her-Oh, them half whites, they gets everything. They gets everything everybody else wants! The men, the jobs everything!” (page 11). Emma has envy and fear  towards Elfie because she thought that she was going to lose her husband John because Elfie was light skinned. This can relate to Passing because when it came to Clare involving herself into Irene’s life, Irene felt the same way because Clare was very liked by Irene’s kids, her husband and also everyone loved Clare. So in that way Emma and Irene were in fear of losing their family.



Colorism vs. Racism: What’s the Difference?

Powerpoint on Fire!!.pptx