Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Racial Passing and the Politics of Performance in Bamboozled and Erasure


The complex and contentious issue of racial passing in early America has persisted as a historical phenomenon up to the present day in American popular culture. The paper discusses the representation of racial passing in some works between 1990 and 2010, specifically Percival Everett’s novel Erasure [2001] and Black. White. TV reality miniseries [2006]. By close analysis, the article will examine how these works reinforce and contest the sociological construct of race. The two texts, however, highlight the continuing relevance of race despite claims of a post-racial society, uncovering the impossibility of moving beyond binary racial constructs.


The idea of racial passing has remained quite complex and multi-faceted throughout the history of the United States. A porous shade line has demarked the line between the so-called “whites” and the “blacks,” with a lot of people traversing a world that is steeped in racism while trying to find their way in the system.[1] States that the most commonly used form of passing is “black-pretending-as-white passing,” which attempts to overcome systematic barriers and access to social and economic opportunities that would have otherwise been denied to people marked as black.[2] By passing this act, individuals were able to avoid racist barriers on the road and also delved deeper into issues of identity and social expectations. There have also been instances of white interlopers trying to pass off as other white ethnic identities and even English. These stories highlight the fluidity and subjective nature of race as they show how individuals navigated their identities in the woven social fabric of America.

Today, more and more passing themes feature characters struggling with Indian, Jewish, or mixed origins. The shift represents a larger discussion about the non-fixed nature of identity, which disrupts static and dichotomous racialization. The narratives go past the Black vs white, exploring the intricacies of identity construction in a multiethnic modern world. Both Erasure and Black. Whites adopt the trope of passing as cultural mulattows who do not recognize any categorization based on a single race. Monk Ellison, an intellectual in Erasure, writes a satirical novel titled Industry to protest at pressure exerted on “black” writers to compose bestsellers. Black.White. performs a very complex social experiment where families of various races beautify themselves and move to another residence to live on another “color line.” These accounts illustrate the cultural aspect of racial identity using characters who can live in the white and white environment without physical changes. However, it demonstrates the persistence of a US system that relies on notions of cultural property associated with skin color.

Erasure uses Monk Ellison’s satirical novel My Pathology as an embedded work within Everett’s novel. Stagg R. Leigh is Monk’s pseudonym, whereby he anonymously critiques Juanita Mae Jenkins’s bestselling urban black novel, We’re Lives in Da Ghetto, by publishing his parody titled My Pathology. It focuses on the phonetic transcription of African-American English made fun in the text. Monk uses the character of Van Go Jenkins caricatured monk, to mock Jenkis’ stereotypical representation. Nevertheless, his satire sells well and is appreciated by readers who need help understanding its satirical purpose. This failure, however, underscores the ongoing attractiveness of black representation limitations and the implication of the audience’s Black included in the reproduction of these representations.

Families in the FX series Black. Whites. are enrolled in a complex social experiment where some of them have their skin altered to resemble those of African Americans while others are made to look like Caucasians. After that, they relocated to the African-American Sparks house with a mother called Renée, her son named Nick, and her husband Brian. This series attempts to investigate how racial experience works and how it subverts preconceived notions using lived social role reversal. However, the show’s frame eventually conforms with the coherence of interchangeableness between “whiteness and blackness,” which are the very basis of binary ideas about racial identity. Through shows how, at the core of their stories are failed satires, and thus, boundaries persist for smooth co-habitation along borders, which is necessary for certainty dependent on fixity for culture.[3] Their heroes repeatedly impersonate the cultural norms of being white and black as strategies to negotiate this system, only to reveal the replication of hierarchy in its essence.

Eventually, both texts claim that investing in distinct identities and media remains important to keep up with notions of racial hybridity ten years after the supposed steps toward racial progress. His goal is to resist stereotyped representations of blackness and defy his editor’s demand to publish more “black” novels. Nonetheless, the book is an unpredicted best seller acclaimed even by literary critics for its “raunchy” descriptions of the “black urban” phenomenon. In this sense, satire does not work, implying that readers and their critics help reproduce racial stereotypes. Just like other black-white pairs, in public, every member of the white family alternatively assumes a role of another race. Father Brian is “black,” Mother Carmen is blackness, and Daughter Rose is other blackness to know the “other” experience. Still, the program reveals that they consume their representations of blackness as comforting stock characters, which reinforces prejudiced images of poor, ignorant, and sexually-promiscuous Negro. The continued valorization of blackness serves as an object of white anxieties, and the promise of post-racial freer identity fails to materialize because blackness is already invested with stabilized racial categories of meaning.

In “Bamboozled” and “Erasure,” satire is masterly employed to reveal the manufacturing process of racialized identities, which highlights the persistent relationship between whiteness and blackness in determining the concept of race in the US. The description of failed assimilation attempts questions the established binary notions of blackness and whiteness. Transcending these categories notwithstanding, the narratives depict the society’s norms and cultural expectations that still exist. Furthermore, the pieces shed light on the ever-present legacy of regimes of the culture industry and the reproduction of racialized stereotypes via different kinds of channels. The texts address issues that have to do with racial transcendence and bring to light the uncertainties of a society that is still racially biased. This society claims to be “post-racial,” yet it makes use of race talk to create a racial identification sense of community. The protagonists represent different racial backgrounds, and their struggle against living in a modified “third race” mirrors the diverse social pressures that should have been abandoned within a seemingly “post-racial” environment. “Bamboozled” and “Erasure” reveal the complexities of the cross-section of race, identity, and cultural representation[4]. These works question whether it is possible to make a smooth transition beyond the category of “race.”


The paper deals with the issue of racial passing in the novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett and the reality miniseries entitled “Black.White.” It highlights how race has been viewed as fluid in America and its history. This analysis highlights the cultural component of racial identity, focusing on the characters who move in white and black environments without physical change. This discussion focuses on the satire in Monk Ellison’s novel “Erasure” and the representation of social experiment in “Black. White”. These examples demonstrate how race remains pertinent despite the purported idea of a post-racial society. This essay claims that both texts mock the creation of racial identities, revealing how the ideas of whiteness and blackness are inextricably intertwined with our concept of race. However, the stories reflect social norms and stereotypes despite the society’s efforts to engage in culture passing. It also touches upon how the media continues to propagate racially demarked stereotypes, reiterating the power of cultural products and consumption. Finally, the essay contends that “Erasure” and “Black. White” illustrate the uncertainties of racial transcendence by exposing the contradictory cultural pressures in a society where racial discourses remain essential for identity, community, and national comprehension. The failed endeavors of the protagonists to live in the supposed “third race” speak volumes about such complications.


“Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism.” n.d. Google Books.,+W.+(1986).+Beyond+Ethnicity:+Consent+and+Descent+in+American+Culture.+Oxford+University+Press.&ots=znHAiV-SZK&sig=JH3kyZeqsE4vFoI1kjXInSb5PyI.

“Neither Black nor White yet Both.” n.d. Google Books.,+Werner.+Neither+Black+Nor+White+Yet+Both:+Thematic+Explorations+of+Interracial+Literature.+Oxford+University+Press,+1997&ots=qP_fzNtFFu&sig=Z3O3HCGigug6ABzD8NEMn2OtGBo.

“The Culture Trap.” n.d. Google Books.,+W.+(1986).+Beyond+Ethnicity:+Consent+and+Descent+in+American+Culture.+Oxford+University+Press.&ots=NfR8nsLpi5&sig=znVnmK3dSe3spPxWmeZRdD4fRZQ.

Williams, David R., J. R. Lawrence, and Brigette A. Davis. 2019. “Racism and Health: Evidence and Needed Research.” Annual Review of Public Health 40 (1): 105–25.

[1] Williams, David R., J. R. Lawrence, and Brigette A. Davis. 2019. “Racism and Health: Evidence and Needed Research.” Annual Review of Public Health 40 (1): 105–25.

[2] “Neither Black nor White yet Both.” n.d. Google Books.,+Werner.+Neither+Black+Nor+White+Yet+Both:+Thematic+Explorations+of+Interracial+Literature.+Oxford+University+Press,+1997&ots=qP_fzNtFFu&sig=Z3O3HCGigug6ABzD8NEMn2OtGBo

[3] “The Culture Trap.” n.d. Google Books.,+W.+(1986).+Beyond+Ethnicity:+Consent+and+Descent+in+American+Culture.+Oxford+University+Press.&ots=NfR8nsLpi5&sig=znVnmK3dSe3spPxWmeZRdD4fRZQ.

[4] “Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism.” n.d. Google Books.,+W.+(1986).+Beyond+Ethnicity:+Consent+and+Descent+in+American+Culture.+Oxford+University+Press.&ots=znHAiV-SZK&sig=JH3kyZeqsE4vFoI1kjXInSb5PyI.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics