PASSING The act of an African American attempting to and succeeding in assuming the status of being white by virtue of the lightness of his or her complexion traditionally has been referred to as "passing." Historically the result (or "backwash," as Gunner Myrdal puts it) of miscegenation, "passing" has probably existed from colonial times to the present. The extent to which it has existed, of course, can never be accurately calculated. Many of those that have "passed" will not readily admit it, while many whose parents or grandparents successfully "passed" do not have knowledge of that fact.
The motivational factor in "passing" is reflective of a white-dominated society (caste system) in which "color" has been regarded as a badge of servitude and inferiority. Regardless of specific motivation (occupational, educational, recreational, sexual, marital, etc.), African Americans who have "passed" have done so to take advantage of those opportunities and luxuries which historically have been denied to their "darker" brothers and sisters. Although it cannot be substantiated, with the tremendous growth in black racial pride in recent years, it would be reasonable to assume that fewer African Americans of relatively light complexion are consciously "passing" today as opposed to twenty years ago. To "pass," in the eyes of most modern African Americans, represents a traitorous rejection of a rich and proud cultural heritage in exchange for convenience and a measure of security. See also: MISCEGENATION.