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The Parent as Citizen: Multiracialism in Jane Lazarre’s "Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons"

Cedric Essi

Pages 491 - 510



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

The term “multiracialism” describes a paradigm shift in U.S. racial discourse at the turn of the twenty-first century, wherein a centuries-old taboo of miscegenation is reinterpreted as new democratizing potential for the nation at large. Expanding insights into the ways in which affirmations of White motherhood in public spheres have been central to the rise of multiracialism, this article investigates Jane Lazarre’s "Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness" (1996 / 2016) to highlight the publication of memoirs as one mode of asserting White parental ties to Black children. I argue that memoirists like Lazarre draw on the culturally resonant script of the American Puritan conversion narrative to articulate and valorize White mothering across the color line as a site of intimacy that enables anti-racist politicization: “I am no longer white. […] I am a person of color now” (Lazarre 135). My analysis scrutinizes the terms on which Lazarre mobilizes this experience as a didactic model for a shared connection between citizens across racial divides. In the process, I examine how the color line becomes imagined as the nation’s contemporary frontier and ask if Lazarre’s ambivalent rhetoric of conversion might further relate to her Jewish positionality as well as interracial heterosexuality in larger historical and affective dynamics of U.S. citizenship.

Keywords: Black Studies; Critical Mixed Race Studies; Multiracialism; Motherhood; Affective Citizenship

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