The Politics of “Passing”: American Indians and Racial “Passing”

Abstract: (Excerpt from Introduction)

How is the racial "passing" behavioral concept applicable to American Indians, and what political forces created the socio-cultural circumstances that prompted this behavior? Beyond these immediate, sociologically-focused questions, what geerational impacts does racial "passing" have upon tribal sovereignty and how does tribal sovereignty effect certain forms of racial "passing"? Until now, racial "passing" has been oversimpilified as an exclusively Black/White social phenomenon, given the term "passing" was originally coined to described an African-American's attempts to identify him/herself, or to accept identification as a white person (Caughie 1999, p. 20). However, racial "passing" is neither historically nor contemporarily unique to the African-American community, since racial "passing" is facilitiated by any social organization, such as the United States, that hold certain "subordinate" groups in disesteem (Sollors 1997, p. 248). Taking the United States' "trust responsibilty", American Indian nations' "domestic dependent" statuses, and documented history of Indian-specific, institutionalized racism together, one readily witnesses that the societal "disesteem" to which American Indians are and were subjected also positions and positioned them as both participants in and subjects of racial "passing".


Veronica Hirsch


Eileen Luna Firebaugh





Arizona State Museum: 

M9791 H57p
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences