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Definition of Passing


Definition: African Americans and other minorities were historically discriminated against in the U.S., so the fair-skinned offspring of whites and people of color often pretended to be white to take advantage of the opportunities that would've otherwise been denied to them. This practice is known as passing or passing for white. It often required individuals to leave their hometowns and family members behind to ensure that they'd never come across anyone who knew their true racial origins. Books such as Imitation of Life, remade into two Hollywood films, and Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man tackle the subject of passing.
Also Known As: Crossing the color line.
In her novel Passing, author Nella Larsen writes about a fair-skinned black woman who leaves her black neighborhood and acquaintances behind so she can disconnect from her mixed-race roots and pretend to be completely white. The woman even fools her husband into thinking that she has no black ancestry.
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