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Racial segregation and separation were established under firm foundation in the United States of America and, in most cases, went on to exploit an isolated world of African-Americans. African-Americans are ashamed, fearful and subjected to many risks that passing involves. Blacks are locked out from enjoying some benefits that are readily available for the whites. African-Americans, therefore, strain and reach out to do all that is within their reach to enter the white world and evade the wrath of segregation.


Passing can basically be described as a situation where a person who belongs to a certain race strives to gain acceptability as being a member of another race. Passing is not simply being mistaken as being from another race as William did before he knew the truth, it is knowing who one really is but still lying to others as he occasionally did after knowing his father was a Negro. Passing was/is used by people to enable them enjoy certain identities that they would not have enjoyed had they retained their true identities. In the United States of America passing has been mostly evident among the black Americans.

Reasons, Costs and Benefits of Passing

Prejudice has largely fueled segregation. The sole criterion of segregation and differentiation was race or color (Brewer, 1954). African-Americans are treated with contempt by their white counterparts. The whites upheld a negative attitude and looked down upon the blacks with no apparent reason. This prejudice did cost the blacks much since the amount of problems encountered was directly proportional to the degree of segregation. The white society that was more numerous or powerful stood on the way of the fewer or otherwise weaker blacks to enjoy absolute equality in several places of public accommodation. Administration of public services like lighting depicts a clearly cut distinction between white and black residential places. This is because of the fact that the blacks are not sufficiently represented in the government and are with no or less platforms to make their grievances heard. They are, therefore, made to lead a life of miseries and in a place they ought to leave their satisfaction. The blacks were generally treated with disregard and contempt by their white colleagues. These raised eyebrows among the blacks and are caught up in a great need to pass to the white world where they will lead a life equal to that of the whites. There exist several effects, both benefits and costs, that can be attributed to passing.


Passing has one major cost; in order for passing to be successful, one has to forfeit his other identity and so one cannot sit on the fence and enjoy benefits of both worlds (Barton, 1948). This in turn means that means that racial diversity is yet to be embraced. Passing thus is an avenue through which racial diversity dies almost automatically.

The whites controlled the government as well as its appropriations and are residentially awarded good pavements, sewers, policing and lights at the expense of the isolated blacks. Consequently, the blacks become subjects of poor amenities and conditions of living. There is no better accommodation for the blacks in trains and public carriers because prejudices have it that those blacks are not fit to ride in the same class with the whites. This created a reason for passing.

No sober mind could dream of a time of equal treatment of whites and blacks by the extent to which racial segregation had taken roots in the society of whites (Avery, 1989). Whites remain the main beneficiaries of this vice and would like to see it continue as long as they live because they reap benefits that are rightfully theirs and those that would belong to the blacks of their society. Any attempt by the blacks to emancipate themselves from racial segregation was largely criticized and disposed as worthless.


Passing definitely has some benefits. First, it assured a person better treatment I institutions. When Walter White’s father was hit by a white physician, he was taken to the white section of the hospital because he looked like a white. This part of the hospital was not only renovated, but also well kept. However, this dint last for a long time as his true identity was realized when his son in law visited. He was then transferred to the dirty and unkempt section of the hospital meant for blacks.

Secondly, passing would assure security. As seen in the 1906 Atlanta riots, mobs attacked and killed the Negro. A mob of white youths  was very eager to burn White’s house simply because it was too good for a nigger to live in(Andrews, 2001). this clearly shows that the whites not only looked down on the blacks but were not also pleased with their well-being. When all this was happening, the whites and their houses remained safe as they were not targeted and thereby anyone was also successful in passing was also safe.

Thirdly, the whites were assured of better services unlike the blacks (Carter, 2004). This is because the earlier was considered as being superior to the latter. This perhaps can serve to explain why Rachel Kennedy passed aurally as a white whenever she was talking to someone with someone in power over something important e.g. while talking to the police or even while seeking a chance for employment. At this instance I know someone may take me to be prejudiced if I said that blacks faced unfair treatment, but then again, let’s look at facts as they are, would Rachel Kennedy have passed habitually if it were not the case?


Pickens’s statement that only idiots would fail to seize the opportunities of passing maybe true due to the many advantages and benefits that come with it(William, 1923). This is also true taking into consideration the foul treatment that was associated with being black.  However, this is not to be taken to mean that every black person is sorry to have been born a Negro. As we see, White devoted much of his later years defending the blacks against racially driven violence meaning he was proudly black. At this time it is thus clear that passing was merely for the sake of getting better treatment/ services and not merely for the disillusioned belief that a person is either superior or inferior judging merely by his skin pigmentation.

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