Passing Stigma


Peoplemainly chose to pass because of the stigmatization that they might befacing in their current status. For instance, an individual who wantsto appear as if he or she belongs to a higher social status may begindressing in expensive gear so that he or she can fit in amongindividuals who qualify to be in that social group. The act ofgaining acceptance in a faction where one could not fit initially isregarded as passing (Passing para 1). As such, the concept of passingis pertinent in the society because it leads to the diversity ofpeople from different cultures, improves globalization and theadaptability of people in a bicultural environment needed for thebest business performance.

Stigmatizationand passing cannot be separated. When someone undergoes passing, itmeans he or she is accepted as someone that they are not.Stigmatization arises from either the community or racial group thatsomeone passes from and also in the group that they join (Passingpara 1). An individual might be facing stigmatization from thesociety that they live in. This might be due to the character of thatperson or something that he/she might have done. Also, stigmatizationin this concept can arise from the family background of someone. Thussuch individuals can choose to live amongst people from other ethnicgroups hence passing due to stigmatization. However, when theseindividuals pass to other racial groups, they might be accepted, butthey will face stigmatization (Passing para 3). This is based on howthis particular group perceives members from the other group. Forexample, the defining characteristics of the group that the personoriginates from will be used to stereotype the individual. Nevertheless, these people will not know the characteristics thatdefined the individual from where he came from thus the originalstigma ends (Passing para 1). Therefore, the concept of passing andstigma correlate.

Thequestion on ‘who is Black’ has been a topic of discussion for along time. In a taped consultation done by a blind blackanthropologist, a ninety-year-old African American man argued that‘Black’ is just an arbitrary name that they have been given. Thesenior man claimed that black people have color variation, just asthe white people do not look all the same. He further asserted thatthere are black people who have a white in appearance. He concludedthat at a particular stage, it is tough to differentiate between thewhite and the black person. Therefore, the question on who is blackis just a matter of perception. For example, the black classmates ofLena Horne referred to her as the ‘yellow bastard’ because shewas too light skinned, and could easily pass for a white (Davis 63).According to this article, passing leads to stigmatization.

Ina globalized world, racial passing is a universal concept. Peoplefrom different parts of the world can travel across the globe easily,and get to stay wherever they wish. To get an identity in such asituation, individuals need to be registered as members of thecountries that they are staying as immigrants, and later initialize acitizenship process that will enable them to become legal residentsof that state (Suárez-Orozco 229). The advantage of globalizationis that it encourages the mixing of people from different cultures,thereby, resulting in diversity. On the other hand, globalization canlead to the extinction of certain cultures that are not strong enoughto resist foreign influence (Suárez-Orozco 229).

However,when members of different races settle in a particular place, rivalryoften develops. Consequently, a friendly foreigner becomes an enemy.Such outcomes often arise when the foreign people begin to exploitthe recourses of the indigenous groups. States in the Middle East,for example, have manifested this aspect by expressing their desireto chase away foreign companies exploiting fossil fuel in theircountries. The inhabitants demonize their subjects to rationalizeexploiting their recourses (Suárez-Orozco 227). Though, thedisadvantage of this aspect is that it leads to conflicts that mightresult in unnecessary loss of life and resources (Messner, 265).

Onthe other hand, the American Constitution provides that members of adifferent race should have rights as well. There are no economicregulations that prevent anyone regardless of his or her nationalityfrom generating income from wherever one lives. Nationality is one ofthe best ways that racial passing is easily achieved in thecontemporary world. According to Suárez-Orozco, the invisibility ofone’s background is a benefit of passing because someone is easilytreated well by members of a different race (227). The benefit ofnationality is that it puts emphasis on living together anddisregards the origins of foreigners because they claim a newidentity, which enhances social cohesion (Davis 65). Tara S. Ellisonadds, “Because of my invisible differences, I constantly have toreveal different parts of my identity” 297. However, stigmatizationis very rapid with nationality.

In‘NotBlind Enough: Living in the Borderland Called Legal Blindness,’Beth Omansky explores the social stigma that borderland peopleexperience in various situations. For example, they have to pass asblind each time they need assistance such as reading a signboardbecause nobody would grant such aid to an individual with perfecteyesight. Nevertheless, the main drawback of acting blind is thatpeople tend to ignore sightless individuals (p. 334). Furthermore,the person pretending blind may also experience guilt conscience ofintruding the privacy of the people they ask for assistance (Omansky334).

Racialpassing has many advantages. Firstly, individuals who facestigmatization in their places of origin can avoid it when they pass.Secondly, it encourages diversity, which is helpful to the societybecause people learn the cultures of other communities. For example,the passed group becomes bicultural and bilingual, which, in turn,enhances the adaptability of individuals in the business world(Suárez-Orozco 225). Thirdly, integration promotes elimination ofracism. When members of other backgrounds interact as one, there is asense of understanding that all people are equal regardless of theirskin colors. Fourthly, recognition of different races in anotherethnic group reduces segregation. Members of various culturalbackgrounds are treated as one because they belong to the community(Suárez-Orozco 226).

Onthe other hand, racial passing has its disadvantages. Firstly, itinterferes with the culture of the indigenous ethnic group. The mixup of different traditions leads to the development of a newcivilization. Therefore, the primary culture faces the risk ofextinction. Carola Suárez-Orozco addresses the issue,“Globalization threatens the identities of the original residentsof the areas in which newcomers settle and those of the immigrantsand their children” p. 225. Secondly, racial passing might resultin violence between members of diverse ethnic groups. This occurswhen one group feels that another faction is taking it for granted,especially when it comes to the use of public resources. Thirdly, astruggle for superiority might arise between the rival collections,and it can be worse when the minority have the upper hand over themajority alliance. For example, Michael A. Messner observes thatimmigrants from the Middle East are considered hostile and unable toassimilate into the American culture. As a result, the communitylives in a hostile environment where they are treated as terrorsuspects with no proven cause (253). Such situations fuel racism inthe society. Fourthly, stigmatization is one of the coredisadvantages of passing. When different individuals get accepted toother groups, they are faced with stereotyping that leads tostigmatization. Moreover, the fact that they are different is aground of stigmatization (Ellison 297).

Inconclusion, globalization has led to the rapid rise of racialpassing. Members of different ethnic groups are accepted in otherfactions. Stigmatization is a major concern for the individuals whochose to pass. The might pass to avoid stigmatization only to getstigmatized when they pass because they are different. The phenomenonis prevalent in the United States of America. People from differentplaces and ethnicity live in harmony. Nevertheless, they are regardedas Americans and are privileged to equal rights.


Davis,F. James. “Whois Black? One Nation’s Definition.”The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex andGender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. Eds. KarenE. Rosenblum &amp Toni-Michelle C. Travis. NY: McGraw HIll, 2012.61-70.

Ellison,Tara S. “PersonalAccount: Living Invisibly.”The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex andGender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. Eds. KarenE. Rosenblum &amp Toni-Michelle C. Travis. NY: McGraw HIll, 2012.297.

Messner,Michael A. “ThePrivilege of Teaching about Privilege.”The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex andGender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. Eds. KarenE. Rosenblum &amp Toni-Michelle C. Travis. NY: McGraw HIll, 2012.261-266.

Omansky,Beth. “NotBlind Enough: Living in the Borderland Called Legal Blindness.”The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex andGender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. Eds. KarenE. Rosenblum &amp Toni-Michelle C. Travis. NY: McGraw HIll, 2012.331-358.

Passing(sociology). OMICSInternational,2014. Web. Accessed from &lt

Suárez-Orozco,Carola. “FormulatingIdentity in a Globalized World.” The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex andGender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. Eds. KarenE. Rosenblum &amp Toni-Michelle C. Travis. NY: McGraw HIll, 2012.225-231.