Perhaps you already know that a new edition of Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative 2009 bestseller, Our Kind of People, was published not too long ago. The book deals with class distinctions among African-Americans and the issue of “passing for white.” I learned about the updated edition from my daily Delancey Place newsletter, but I remember the original book well. It resonated with me. And still does. Not only because I grew up hearing the term passant blanc (passing for white, passer pour le blanc) from my New Orleans relatives, but also because I lived in Atlanta when segregation obscured the fact that black communities were often divided along class lines.
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For years now, I’ve wanted to take one of those Viking River Cruises advertised at the beginning of Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, and other Masterpiece programs on PBS. So it felt good to find myself finally peering at a ribbon of blue-green water from my own stateroom window. The sun shone upon the glittering current like a Greek medallion, and I drifted into its light with the kind of elation that usually comes only while writing.
Imagine my surprise to find upon waking that so vivid an experience was a dream. The master bedroom felt chilly and damp. I reached for the phone and asked Siri for the temperature. Mid-forties, she chirped.
On Cinco de Mayo? Was she kidding?
Last night I dreamed I saw Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a sofa in the White House while a choir of well-dressed African-Americans gathered prayerfully around the orange president. She gazed fixedly at the irradiated screen of a handheld device, while the hem of her skirt found a resting place above her knees. I have seen women posed this way on the cover of Playboy and also upon bumper stickers and decals fastened to pickup trucks. But I never dreamed this straddle might pass for decorum in the nation’s capital. Until now.
I'm an award-winning writer with a background in talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy.
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