Assistant Professor of English at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville | Visiting Bildner Scholar, Rutgers University
October 17, 2023
Miller Hall room 115 (14 College Ave.)
In the Amazon Prime original movie Master (2022), the character Liv, a university professor, passes as Black to achieve tenure. Liv is White and possibly Jewish, but the film implies that academia affords African Americans specialized treatment via affirmative action. She achieves tenure at the expense of her Whiteness and her White identity is hidden. Passing (for Black or for White) in educational settings has played out in literature and film throughout the twentieth century and, more recently, in real life. In 2020, it was revealed that Jessica Krug, a professor at George Washington University, was not “Jess La Bombalera,” a Nuyorican woman, but a Jewish woman from outside Kansas City. This reverses the trajectory of Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain (2000), wherein Coleman Silk, the protagonist, is a light-complexioned African American passing for Jewish. Other recent examples include Satchuel Cole, a White activist in Indianapolis who passed as Black, and CV Vitolo-Haddad, a doctoral student who was racially outed at the same time as Krug.
In the context of historical Black-Jewish alliances and fractures, this faculty seminar will explore the ways in which some White Jewish Americans have assumed a Black identity and possible explanations for this phenomenon. While African Americans welcome allies of all races and creeds, the acts of racial fraudulence and deception on the part of Cole, Krug, and Vitolo-Haddad stemmed from gross misconceptions of Blackness. This seminar will examine how the color line remains a pervasive problem of the 21st century, as evidenced by the ease with which it is still crossed.
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