QHQ Discussion: Hughes: "Who's Passing
Juda Bennett‟s Reading
Presentation: Essay 2: The Argument:
Brainstorming with FREECASH
In-Class Writing: Essay 2 Brainstorming
Author Lecture: Toni Morrison
Take five minutes to discuss
Hughes‟s "Who's Passing for
THE ARTISTS AND CALEB‟S FRIENDS
(IF YOUR QUESTION IS IN THE PRESENTATION (IN
WHITE), YOU GET ONE PARTICIPATION POINT.
• Why did the black artists choose to ignore the color line? Were
they really blind when it came to race?
• Q: Even though Caleb Johnson was [black], why did he choose
to hang out with his white friends and why did he react so
strongly when the couple in the restaurant said they were
• What was the couple‟s and red-headed man‟s real purpose of
• Why does Caleb often take the side of the white man in social
The red-haired man (Mr. Stubblefield) and
Q: Do you think it was wrong of the white man to stop
defending the [black] woman after he realized that she
wasn‟t white? Why do you think he apologized?
Q: Why did the woman who got hit by her husband start to
Q: Why did the others questioned Mr. Stubblefield‟s
motives, when they themselves took no action to help the
Why did knowing/thinking that the visitors
from Iowa were blacks passing for whites
change the mood of the night from that point
Why did everyone start laughing once they realized
that the husband and wife were passing as white
Q. Would everyone have had as good of a time if
the white couple had not mentioned that they
Does being around your own race really change
the way you behave in public?
• Q: Why was the white couple trying to pass as
[black] for that little while?
• Q: If white people actually passed for [black] as
the woman from Iowa said at the end, what
would be the reason/benefit to do so?
• Q: Was the white couple actually trying to prove
a point by telling the lie or were they simply
• Q: Do you think the people from Iowa are white
The Artists once more
• Did the black artists take offense to the fact the
white people passed for being “colored” for the
• What did “they had had too much fun at our
expense–even if they did pay for the drinks.”
• Will the narrator and his friends regret what they
have done? Will they change their manner when
meeting white friends after this experience?
DO YOU READ QUEER
PASSING IN THE STORY?
hints of it?
BENNETT, JUDA. “MULTIPLE PASSINGS
AND THE DOUBLE DEATH OF
HONOLULU: FALL 2000.
VOL. 23, ISS. 4; PG. 670, 25 PGS
Here is his
“With a sense of the interplay between
voyeur and object, homophobe and
homosexual, inside and outside,
"who's passing for who?" Interweaves
the explicit theme of racial passing”
with the buried theme of the closet.
[Assertion] The voice of the narrator is the key to
discovering this buried, or closety, theme . Although
critics have been surprisingly silent about the narrator's
various and potential passings, there are several reasons
for reading his character as false or at least layered.
[Evidence] He admits, for example, to at least one
performance when he states that "we dropped our
professionally self-conscious 'Negro' manners... and
kidded freely like colored folks do when there are no white
folks around" (173). [Explanation] Although Langston
Hughes is working within an African American tradition
that has often explored the nature of performance as it
relates to racial difference and insider/outsider
communities, [Analysis] this story further layers that
dynamic with other marks of difference.
[Evidence] Before the action begins, the prolix and witty
narrator introduces his friends and himself as "too broadminded to be bothered with questions of color." [Explanation]
This statement sets up the dramatic irony that positions the
narrator for his ultimate blunder: being fooled by the white
Iowans. [Analysis] Although the narrator's bohemian world is
meant to stand in contrast to the boring white folks from Iowa,
Hughes eventually reverses the roles. The Iowans prove to be
the tricksters, and the narrator must confront his own naiveté.
That the narrator could not see through the Iowans'
dissimulation is funny, ironic, interesting-but in the end,
not entirely believable.
What happens, though, if we read the narrator's bohemian
world as a homosocial world? [Assertion posed as a question]
When we divide the entire cast of characters into single
men and heterosexual couples, we discover that racial
passing only occurs within the heterosexual realm. Not only
does the Iowan 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 as deflecting
attention from the narrator and his friends, who become boring
and unremarkable despite the initial flair with which they are
introduced. [Logical Conclusion] Racial passing becomes a
decoy, distracting our attention from the performances of the
[Assertion] Before Hughes initiates the drama of racial passing, 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 all
bores. Or so we, who lived in Harlem's literary bohemia during the
"Negro Renaissance," thought. We literary ones considered
ourselves too broad-minded to be bothered with questions of color.
We liked people of any race who smoked incessantly, drank liberally,
wore complexion and morality as loose garments, and made fun of
anyone who didn't do likewise. We snubbed and high-hatted any
Negro or white luckless enough not to understand Gertrude Stein
....” (Hughes 170)
[Concession]Although the narrator assumes this affected tone,
his dandified attitude and the passing reference to Gertrude
Stein hardly mark him fully and definitively as a homosexual.
[Assertion] Nevertheless, the title, with its bad grammar calling
attention to itself, encourages speculation. Who is passing for
whom? [Explanation/Analysis] Surely the author would have
planted more and trickier trickster figures than the Iowans to fully
justify his title. Furthermore, the narrative has already schooled us
in the surprising fluidity of identity, and so readers are encouraged
to suspect more revelations and exposures.
[Concession] To those who would argue that the subject of passing lends
itself to this kind of wild and speculative reading-after all, everything is
performance, and everybody passes-I heartily agree. [Final Assertion] I
am finally arguing that in his autobiographies, poetry, fiction, and
drama, Hughes returned to the subject of passing throughout his
career because he was fascinated with identity as something unstable
and "queer." With their emphasis on compensation rather than loss,
questions rather than answers, the unknown rather than the known,
and curiosity rather than punishment, Hughes's writings on sexual
identity invite comparison to his exploration of racial passing.
BRAINSTORMING WITH FREECASH
F= Freedom, Fairness, Legality, Human Rights, Social Justice
R = Religion, Morality, Ethics
E = Economics, Monetary Issues, Finances, Expenses
E = Environment (types of environments = natural, rural, urban, workplace, home, school)
C = Convenience, Comfort
A = Appearance, Aesthetics
S = Safety, Security
H = Health, Well Being (types of health = individual, societal, mental, physical, emotional,
PRACTICE ORGANIZING AN ESSAY ON THE
ISSUE OF SCHOOL UNIFORMS. USE THE
FREECASH IN THE CHART BELOW .
Students should be free from
stigma attached to class.
Students should be free to wear
what they want
Makes the students look like clones
Keeps students safe from
gang violence due to colors
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.
Consider which texts will support your ideas.
Hughes “Passing,” “Passing,” and “Who’s Passing for
Chesnutt “The Passing of Grandison”
Kennedy “Racial Passing”
Pickens “Racial Segregation”
Roth The Human Stain
In this case, your working thesis will be your position on
William Pickens’s statement and your reasons for your belief: Do
you agree with him or not? Why or why not? You may refer to
Pickens or not in your thesis.
Racial passing is a personal decision, and people should seize
the opportunity if they can in order to defeat racism and
Passing is a selfish act that reinforces hierarchy in society, and it
should be avoided despite the opportunities it offers the
You may qualify your thesis, for example, by adding a phrase that
acknowledges there are exceptions to your assertion.
For example, if you disagree with Pickens in general but want to
acknowledge that there are specific circumstances in which passing
is acceptable, you might say something like, “While racial passing for
personal safety is a necessary and acceptable behavior, passing in
general violates community norms and reinforces the social
construct of racism.”
If you agree with Pickens but want to acknowledge there are
specific circumstances in which passing is unacceptable, you might
say something like, “While full time passing violates familial and
community connections and should be avoided, the wise person will
pass part time to take advantage of the benefits it can reap, including
the opportunities to escape racism and oppression.”
Notice that these theses still assert clear stances. Don’t be vague or
ambiguous with your position.
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.
Reading Morrison: “Recitatif.”
Post #10: Write a paragraph
defending passing. Try to
come up with at least three
reasons. Write another
passing using another three
reasons. Use evidence from
our readings to support your
Post #11: QHQ: "Recitatif"