Does this book ultimately show any drawbacks of passing for white or is the narrator's experiences all positive?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of what makes Johnson's work so compelling is that there are no easy answers when it comes to the social construction of race.  The impact that this reality has on the narrator is profound.  I do think that the narrator has understood the political and social pragmatism in passing for the socially accepted "White" label.  Yet, I also think that there is much to reflect that the narrator is not necessarily happy with such a reality.  The idea that the narrator has exchanged  his “birthright for a mess of pottage” is reflective of this reality.  The cold and detached way in which the narrator views the world and his place in it has resulted in an emotionally frigid construction of reality.  

The narrator is unable to find a home in any realm.  He is always at a point of judgment and analysis about White culture, African- American culture, economic cultures, and where he stands in these domains.  The narrator shows that the drawback for "passing for White" is his inability to immerse himself in any realm.  He is constantly an outsider. His own perception of self is this outsider element.  Whether or not one judges this as a result of social marginalization or how own "moral cowardice" feeds into the idea that the price the narrator pays for "passing off as white" is a dear one.  Upon reflection, this becomes far from positive.

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