AGENDAQHQ Discussion: Hughes: "Whos Passing for Who?"Reading Queerness with Juda BennettPresentation: Essay 2: The Argument: Brainstorming with FREECASHIn-Class Writing: Essay 2 BrainstormingAuthor Lecture: Toni Morrison
GROUP MEETINGTake five minutes to discuss Hughes‟s "Whos Passing for Who?"
QHQ: “WHO‟S PASSING FOR WHO?” BY LANGSTON HUGHES• Why did Caleb have white folks as visitors in Harlem anyway? What was the couple‟s and red-headed man‟s real purpose of visiting Harlem?• Why does Caleb often take the side of the white man in social confrontations?• Why does Caleb feel the need to apologize to his white guests for being ignorant about colored people passing?
• For what reason did the Iowan couple wish to pass for black?• Why did the couple share with the rest of the folks that they were also colored after Stubblefield from Iowa left? • Are they really passing as white? • Did the white couple tell Caleb and his friends that they were “colored” as a way to deceive and make fun of them or to make everyone feel more comfortable? • It seems almost cruel what the “light-colored” folk did, but were they wrong or was there a new perspective due to passing as white then black then white again? • Did the couple gain anything from that situation other than fooling a group of people for evening and having a chance to taste what it was like to live in their shoes? Did they begin to treat [the African-American] people with more respect and decency?
• Why did knowing/thinking that the visitors from Iowa were blacks passing for whites change the mood of the night from that point on? • If the couple didn‟t tell them that they were [black] passing as white, would they still have had a great time? • Does being around your own race really change the way you behave in public? • Why did everyone start laughing once they realized that the husband and wife were passing as white people? • How does race affect the social gathering between the whites and blacks while drinking with each other at the bar?
• What‟s the real race of that couple from Iowa? • If the couple was white why would they lie and pretend to be black? • If they were black, why would they end the night by saying they were black? • Why does the white couple decide to tell the truth to the narrator and his friends finally? • Are they truly white people like they said at the end? • Is the “white” couple really white? Or are they just playing tricks on everybody by claiming they are really white in the end? • Would the story change its meaning if the couple were actually black or white?
Why are the white guests predisposed to defend a white female versus a colored female in any sort of dispute ? Should we feel a connection to someone in order to give aid to someone, or should we just do it out of the goodness of our hearts? After the woman was being hit by her husband, why did she get up and defend her husband ? How would society in that day view the red haired man in two separate scenarios: He intervenes when a black man beats a white woman, and he intervenes when a black man beats his black wife. Is one “just/accepted” and the other not? Why did the others questioned Mr. Stubblefield‟s motives, when they themselves took no action to help the woman?
• What did “they had had too much fun at our expense–even if they did pay for the drinks.” mean? • Will the narrator and his friends regret what they have done? Will they change their manner when meeting white friends after this experience?• Why [were the “literary ones”] upset at the people passing as [black] and so matter a fact about [blacks] passing as white?• Does this quote remain true by the end of the short story: “We literary ones considered ourselves too broad-minded to be bothered with questions of color”?• Who‟s passing as Who? The black or the white?
If DO YOU READ QUEER so, where do you seePASSING IN THE STORY? hints of it?
BENNETT, JUDA. “MULTIPLE PASSINGS AND THE DOUBLE DEATH OF LANGSTON HUGHES.” HONOLULU: FALL 2000. VOL. 23, ISS. 4; PG. 670, 25 PGS
BENNETT‟S THESIS: WITH A SENSEOF THE INTERPLAY BETWEENVOYEUR AND OBJECT,HOMOPHOBE ANDHOMOSEXUAL, INSIDE ANDOUTSIDE, "WHOS PASSING FORWHO?" INTERWEAVES THEEXPLICIT THEME OF RACIALPASSING WITH THE BURIEDTHEME OF THE CLOSET.
Bennett writes,[Assertion] The voice of the narrator is the key todiscovering this buried, or closety, theme . Althoughcritics have been surprisingly silent about the narratorsvarious and potential passings, there are severalreasons for reading his character as false or at leastlayered. [Evidence] He admits, for example, to at leastone performance when he states that "we dropped ourprofessionally self-conscious Negro manners... andkidded freely like colored folks do when there are nowhite folks around" (173). [Explanation] AlthoughLangston Hughes is working within an African Americantradition that has often explored the nature ofperformance as it relates to racial difference andinsider/outsider communities, [Analysis] this storyfurther layers that dynamic with other marks ofdifference.
[Evidence] Before the action begins, the prolix and wittynarrator introduces his friends and himself as "too broad-minded to be bothered with questions of color."[Explanation] This statement sets up the dramatic ironythat positions the narrator for his ultimate blunder: beingfooled by the white Iowans. [Analysis] Although thenarrators bohemian world is meant to stand in contrast tothe boring white folks from Iowa, Hughes eventuallyreverses the roles. The Iowans prove to be the tricksters,and the narrator must confront his own naiveté. That thenarrator could not see through the Iowans dissimulation isfunny, ironic, interesting-but in the end, not entirelybelievable.
What happens, though, if we read the narrators bohemianworld as a homosocial world? [Assertion] When we dividethe entire cast of characters into single men andheterosexual couples, we discover that racial passing onlyoccurs within the heterosexual realm. Not only does theIowan couple pass, but so too does the only other woman,half of the only other heterosexual couple in the story.[Analysis] We might then see these racial passings asdeflecting attention from the narrator and his friends, whobecome boring and unremarkable despite the initial flairwith which they are introduced. [Logical Conclusion] Racialpassing becomes a decoy, distracting our attention fromthe performances of the bohemian bachelors.
[Assertion] Before Hughes initiates the drama of racialpassing, he comes dangerously close to revealing the "perverse"nature of the narrator and his bachelor friends:[Evidence] “You see, Caleb and his white friends, too, were allbores. Or so we, who lived in Harlems literary bohemia duringthe "Negro Renaissance," thought. We literary ones consideredourselves too broad-minded to be bothered with questions ofcolor. We liked people of any race who smokedincessantly, drank liberally, wore complexion and morality asloose garments, and made fun of anyone who didnt do likewise.We snubbed and high-hatted any Negro or white lucklessenough not to understand Gertrude Stein ....” (Hughes 170)
[Concession]Although the narrator assumes this affected tone,his dandified attitude and the passing reference to GertrudeStein hardly mark him fully and definitively as a homosexual.[Assertion] Nevertheless, the title, with its bad grammar callingattention to itself, encourages speculation. Who is passing forwhom? [Explanation/Analysis] Surely the author would haveplanted more and trickier trickster figures than the Iowans tofully justify his title. Furthermore, the narrative has alreadyschooled us in the surprising fluidity of identity, and so readersare encouraged to suspect more revelations and exposures.
[Concession] To those who would argue that the subject of passinglends itself to this kind of wild and speculative reading-afterall, everything is performance, and everybody passes-I heartily agree.[Final Assertion] I am finally arguing that in hisautobiographies, poetry, fiction, and drama, Hughes returned to thesubject of passing throughout his career because he was fascinatedwith identity as something unstable and "queer." With their emphasison compensation rather than loss, questions rather than answers, theunknown rather than the known, and curiosity rather thanpunishment, Hughess writings on sexual identity invite comparison tohis exploration of racial passing.
BRAINSTORMING ESSAY #2
BRAINSTORMING WITH FREECASHF= Freedom, Fairness, Legality, Human Rights, Social JusticeR = Religion, Morality, EthicsE = Economics, Monetary Issues, Finances, ExpensesE = Environment (types of environments = natural, rural, urban, workplace, home, school)C = Convenience, ComfortA = Appearance, AestheticsS = Safety, SecurityH = Health, Well Being (types of health = individual, societal, mental, physical, emotional, spiritual)
PRACTICE ORGANIZING AN ESSAY ON THE ISSUE OF SCHOOL UNIFORMS. USE THE FREECASH IN THE CHART BELOW .CATEGORIES PRO/FOR CON/AGAINSTFREEDOM Students should be free Students should be free to wear from stigma attached to what they want class.RELIGION/MORALITYECONOMICSENVIRONMENTCONVENIENCEAPPEARANCE Makes the students look like clonesSAFETY Keeps students safe from gang violence due to colorsHEALTH
THE PROMPT If passing for white will get a fellow better accommodations on the train, better seats in the theatre, immunity from insults in public places, and may even save his life from a mob,” only idiots would fail to seize the advantages of passing, at least occasionally if not permanently.” Write an essay of four to six pages arguing for or against William Pickens’s statement . Use support from the texts you have read so far, our discussions, and your own insights.
L I S T A L L T H E R E A S O N S T O AG R E E W I T H P I C K E N S O N O N E S I D E A N D A L L T H E R E A S O N S T O D I S AG R E E O N T H E O T H E R . T H E S I D E W I T H T H E M O S T O R B E S T R E A S O N S W I L L P R O B A B LY M A K E A B E T T E R A R G U M E N T.CATEGORIES PRO/FOR CON/AGAINSTFREEDOMRELIGION/MORALITYECONOMICSENVIRONMENTCONVENIENCEAPPEARANCESAFETYHEALTH
SUPPORTConsider which texts will support your ideas. Hughes “Passing,” “Passing,” and “Who‟s Passing for Who?” Chesnutt “The Passing of Grandison” Kennedy “Racial Passing” Pickens “Racial Segregation” Roth The Human Stain Morrison “Recitatif”
WRITING THE THESIS Essay #2
YOUR THESISIn this case, your working thesis will be your position on WilliamPickens’s statement and your reasons for your belief: Do you agree withhim or not? Why or why not? You may refer to Pickens or not in yourthesis.Racial passing is a personal decision, and people should seize theopportunity if they can in order to defeat racism and discrimination.Passing is a selfish act that reinforces hierarchy in society, and it shouldbe avoided despite the opportunities it offers the individual.
You may qualify your thesis, for example, by adding a phrase that acknowledges thereare exceptions to your assertion.For example, if you disagree with Pickens in general but want to acknowledge thatthere are specific circumstances in which passing is acceptable, you might saysomething like, “While racial passing for personal safety is a necessary and acceptablebehavior, passing in general violates community norms and reinforces the socialconstruct of racism.” If you agree with Pickens but want to acknowledge there are specific circumstancesin which passing is unacceptable, you might say something like, “While full timepassing violates familial and community connections and should be avoided, the wiseperson will pass part time to take advantage of the benefits it can reap, including theopportunities to escape racism and oppression.”Notice that these theses still assert clear stances. Don’t be vague or ambiguous withyour position.
TONI MORRISON 1931- To n i M o rri s on wa s bo rn i n Lo ra i n Oh i o . Sh e i s t h e a ut h o r o f s eve n n ovels, a pl ay, a n d a wo rk o f l i te rar y c ri t i c i sm. „ „ Re c i t i t af‟ ‟ i s h e r o n l y publ i s h e d wo rk o f s h o r t fi c t i o n. Si n c e 1 9 87 s h e h a s fo c us e d m a i nly o n w ri t i n g but h a s a l s o t a ug h t c l a s ses a t Ya l e a n d P ri n c eton Un i ver sit ies . M o rri so n i s o n e o f t h e m o s t l ove d a n d re s pe c te d w ri te r s o f t h e l a te t we n t i et h c e n t ur y. Seve ra l o f h e r bo o k s h ave be e n be s t s e lle r s, a n d s h e i s t h e re c i pi e nt o f a n um be r o f pre s t i gious l i te ra r y awa rds . In 1 9 9 3 M o rri so n wa s awa rde d t h e N o be l P ri z e fo r Li te ra t ure , be c o m i ng t h e fi r s t Afri c a n Am e ri c an to w i n t h i s h o n o r.
HOMEWORK Reading Morrison: “Recitatif.” Post #10: Write a paragraph defending passing. Try to come up with at least three reasons. Write another paragraph condemning passing using another three reasons. Use evidence from our readings to support your reasons. Post #11: QHQ "Recitatif"