Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2010 Issue »

    Passin’ for Black

    Race, Identity, and Bone Memory in Postracial America

    Signithia Fordham
    Signithia Fordham challenges the notion that we are living in a “postracial” society where race is no longer a major social category, as indicated by the rising incidence of interracial relationships and the popularity of biracial identities. On the contrary, she contends, a powerful fusion of historical memory and inclusive kinship compels Americans whose ancestors were enslaved to embrace a Black identity even when they have White as well as African ancestors. Fordham identifies this socially constructed racial identity as “passin’ for Black.” She argues that virtually every socially defined Black person connected to enslavement—regardless of skin color, hair texture, facial features, or paternity—must perform Blackness. Using narratives obtained from a recent ethnographic study of female competition and aggression in a racially “integrated” suburban high school, Fordham’s essay documents how the complex, charged matter of racial identity—concurrently biological and social—inflames the lives of adolescents and impairs their ability to navigate the school environment.

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    Signithia Fordham, the former Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Rochester. She is the author of the ethnography Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity and Success at Capital High (1996). Her research and essays have appeared in public media—including Education Week, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the London Times—as well as academic journals such as, Transforming Anthropology: The Official Journal of the Association of Black Anthropology, The Urban Review, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Teachers College Record, and the Harvard Educational Review. Her current research, and the subject of her forthcoming book, Downed by Friendly Fire: Black Girls,
    White Girls, and Female Competition at UGRH (Underground Railroad High)
    , focuses on female competition, bullying, and aggression. She can be reached at the University of Rochester or at her home e-mail address: sfordham@rcn.com.

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    Spring 2010 Issue


    Black Women on Education: Complicating Identity and Negotiating Kinship
    Passin’ for Black
    Race, Identity, and Bone Memory in Postracial America
    Signithia Fordham
    From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cipher
    Narrating Black Females’ Color-Consciousness and Counterstories in and out of School
    Carmen Kynard
    Every Good-bye Ain’t Gone
    Iris Carter Ford
    Branching Out and Coming Back Together
    Exploring the Undergraduate Experiences of Young Black Women: A Conversation with Victoria James, Imani Marrero, and Darleen Underwood
    Chantal Francois
    Teaching That Breaks Your Heart
    Reflections on the Soul Wounds of a First-Year Latina Teacher
    Juan F. Carrillo
    Toward a Sexual Ethics Curriculum
    Bringing Philosophy and Society to Bear on Individual Development
    Sharon Lamb
    Unfair Treatment?
    The Case of Freedle, the SAT, and the Standardization Approach to Differential Item Functioning
    Maria Veronica Santelices and Mark Wilson

    Book Notes

    by Debra Chasnoff (director, producer) and Sue Chen (producer)

    How It’s Being Done
    by Karin Chenoweth

    Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited
    by Joseph Tobin, Yeh Hsueh, and Mayumi Karasawa

    Call 1-800-513-0763 to order this issue.