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Essay Sample on Racial Passing

Date:  2021-05-24 14:50:27
6 pages  (1574 words)
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People have different ways of managing their personal and social identities; however, some of the ways might have detrimental effects on the people in the society. Passing is one of the ways that people use to manage their social identities in the society. Some of the multiracial states like the United States apply this kind of social identity method especially because of the social discrimination cases. This paper will examine the concept of racial passing and how it affects the people both negative and positively.

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Passing is the stereotypical perception that one could also belong to another racial group. Racial passing is basically the situation where one belongs to one particular racial group and he/she is also accepted by another different racial group. The term was mostly used in America to describe the people with different or diverse racial backgrounds. Passing is, therefore, the stereotypical kind of thinking or perception that one could have more than one racial-ethnic background. Passing is a way in which people claim a different social identity from what they are; for example, someone might claim to belong to another racial group which he does not fully belong to with the aim of hiding certain characteristics that they possess. Most of the people are subjected to racial passing mainly because of the social stigma associated with the racial discrimination; therefore, they chose to hide in another races ancestry so as to avoid the stigma.

Racial passing has long been associated with the African Americans and other racial groups such as the Native American Indians. However, the term has mostly been associated with the African Americans who try to get assimilated into the white race. America has had a long history when it comes to racial discrimination. Kaplan explains that social stigmatization is caused by the increasing worlds population diversity and mobility. People move from the part of the world to another (Kaplan 2); therefore, they try to fit in other people social classes and beliefs. The minority social groups desire to come out of the socially discriminated groups by joining the dominant social groups and trying to identify with them. Most of the people who were affected by the racial passing in the United States were the white Negro. As Kaplan explains, racism in the United States has influenced various racial groups. Kaplan examines the rise of racism in the United States as the main cause of social discrimination. The attempt by the whites to dominate the minority racial groups such as Africans and other indigenous people from the North, central and South America led to the emergence of different racial groups (Kaplan 17). The dominant group, the whites tried to dominate and exploit the minority groups such as African Americans and the Latinos. Therefore as a way to prevent further exploitation and social discrimination from the dominant groups, some people tried to get assimilated into the dominant groups (Kaplan 18); leading to the concept of racial passing.

The black people who were born from half white and half white people tried to evade the discrimination claiming that they were whites. However, when they go to the whites they were considered black people; therefore, the conflict of racial identity emerged within the group. As Layton explains the relationship between oneself and the other; people are driven by their inner desires. Most of the people who are exposed to social stigmatization find it difficult to cope with other people and their mind as well. The effects of racial passing can be considered both detrimental and beneficial as well. Beneficially racial passing offers the victims of social stigmatization the peace of inner being.

As Layton explains, one can never be at peace with his/her inner being before he/she achieves his/her desires (12). Therefore, when one is exposed to racial or gender discrimination he/she will try to seek the peace within the dominant group. As a result, they find the peace which Layton terms as the ego (12). On the other hand racial passing can also be considered detrimental to the victims; for example, the victims may probably lose their cultural values in the process of assimilating the other culture. Layton explains that people who are unsatisfied with who they tend to adopt the behaviors and practices of the people they like to emulate. As a result, they can easily lose their natural or original identity at the expense of another. Again, the passing victim is most likely to abandon his/her original cultural traditions with its people; he/she will want to identify with the new group. As a result, such a person can expose his/her people to more discriminatory experiences in an attempt to get accepted into another group; therefore, the effects may extend to the people around him/her.

Passing is not different with other social transformation such as gender reassignment procedures. Layton presents the argument that some people do not like the gender that they are born with; therefore, they tend to become who they are not. Layton examines the relationship between femininity and masculinity as a model to understand the conflict between gender relationships. According to Layton, the domination of one particular group is most likely to trigger the desire from the minority group to seek the power possessed by the dominant groups; thus, resulting in what Layton describes as gender bending (Layton 68). Passing is the act of gaining new social identity; the same way, people who under the gender reassignment procedures seek to get new gender identity most probably because they are tired of being discriminated. Although, this reason might be different in todays society with the emergence of same-sex marriage and intimate relationships. The society has changed and things are no longer the way they used to be; today some people take the risk of undergoing transgender surgery to be able to change their gender. In most cases, the reason behind this change is not discrimination as it is driven by the egocentric desires as Layton puts it. However, we can only relate the concept of desiring a new social status in gender-reassignment procedures with passing but not the reasons; the reasons might change.

Passing can be acceptable in certain situations; however, this may depend on the motives and reason for desiring the change. Ethically and morally, we could argue that passing is not acceptable in todays society because people have different reasons for desiring the new social identity. During the 18th, 19, and the early 20th Centuries, most of the minority groups in America such as African Americans, Latinos, and the Native American Indians were exposed to severe racial discrimination; therefore, some of them tried to get assimilated by the dominant groups. We cannot blame them for doing this; it would be acceptable because they were exposed not only to physical torture through exploitation but also psychological torture as a minor group. As Kaplan explains, the minority groups especially the African Americans were associated with the devil and other superstitious descriptions (22). As a result, the victims were exposed to psychological trauma and they tend to seek to find peace with their minds as Layton puts it. On the contrary, we can argue that passing is unacceptable based on the state of our current society; people act based on their egocentric desires.

People are driven mostly by what they want and not what is best for the society. If we try to relate it with the racial discrimination in the United States in the 18th, 19th, and the early 20th centuries, the minority groups were seeking for a way to survive the storm that befell them at that time; there is no storm facing people who desire to change today because they want to be who God did not make them. As Layton puts it, the gender transformation is mostly associated with egocentric motives. The United States has undergone various policy transformations mainly because of its diversity. The changes are aimed at accommodating every person with their desires; therefore legally, passing can be considered acceptable. We have seen the changes over the past years; for example, the legality of the same-sex marriage. These are some of the things that contribute to the acceptability of the passing in the United States. As Zhang explains, the law protecting the patients might extend to the people with gender-related issues in the coming years. Some people are extremely affected by their gender make-up; therefore, they feel isolated from the society (Zhang). Passing can be acceptable especially when it affects the society and not because of certain individuals interests.

In conclusion, passing is a major social issue that needs further review and study as it affects a big population in America. Many people are exposed to social discrimination because they are considered minority groups. This should not be the case; America is a country of diversity and no one should feel humiliated or discriminated by another person. Passing is a strategy that people use to get out of social discrimination and isolation; therefore, they should not be judged because they are only doing what they think is right and hope that could give them the peaceful psychological state.

Works Cited

Kaplan, H. Roy. The myth of post-racial America: Searching for equality in the age of materialism. R&L Education, 2011.

Layton, Lynne. Who's that girl? Who's that boy?: Clinical practice meets postmodern gender theory. Vol. 2. Routledge, 2013.Zhang, Nina. "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Could Expand Coverage for Gender Dysphoria." Health Law. 26 (2013): 26.

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