The case of the actor Wentworth Miller’s racial identity is instructive to the student of sociopolitics in the (post)modern USA.
In a previous post discussing mixed-racial identity, commenter Uh wrote:
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Even very marginal cases [of mixed-race persons] choose [to identify as] black. Remember Wentworth Miller from Prison Break?
…I saw a quote from this guy once to the effect that he has “never thought about trying to ‘pass’ ” as pure white — that vain melodrama which compels even quadroons like this to obsess over their black component.
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Some digging has yielded the original source of that quote: “[Wentworth Miller:] ‘To be perfectly clear, passing’ —- that is, trying to pass oneself off as white…‘is something that has never crossed my mind’…” (New Yorker magazine, Nov 10th, 2003).
But more on that in a minute.
As a youth, it is interesting to note, Wentworth Miller (hereafter WM) had a significantly different “look” than he does today, as these two yearbook photos plainly demonstrate:
What does WM look like in those photos? He looks like an Arab, after his mother’s partial heritage, reinforced by his small Black ancestry (Arabs tend to have minor Black ancestry anyway).
The Black component of WM’s ethnic-ancestry is clearly small. His father is seen below:
A photo of WM with some Blacker relatives:
Wentworth Miller’s Racial Loyalties
This post is entitled “Wentworth Miller and Racial Identity”, but it should be called “WM and Racial Identity in the Postmodern USA”.
(1) The dominant sociocultural apparatus in the USA (and to a large extent in its cultural satellites in the West) promotes the concept of a nefariously-ubiquitous White Privilege. Anti-racist activists have tirelessly worked to raise ‘awareness’ about the need to combat White Privilege. Anti-racist theory has always postulated, at least implicitly, that everyone wants to be white, because of White Privilege. Anti-racist theory has it that white identity strangles the life out of other identities (casting them as ‘inferior’, and ‘institutionally’ keeping them down), that Institutional Racism would impel anyone to try their best to pass for white. Wentworth Miller is an ideal candidate, within the framework of anti-racist theory, for passing into the Promised Land of Whiteness. Here we have someone, in Wentworth Miller, who is mostly-Northwestern-European by ancestry (with moderate Arab and minor Black admixture) anyway, who went to Princeton, who earns millions in the entertainment industry, and who could basically pass for a (slightly exotic) typical white-American as an adult… Yet he strongly identifies as multiracial.
(2) Our everyday experience tell us that WM’s attitudes towards Race are, in fact, the norm. That is, the opposite of what anti-racist theory posits is actually true, certainly in the past generation, and to a great extent in the past two generations. Generally in 1990s- and 2000s-USA, no one wanted to be white. So far in the 2010s, few want to be white. Generally, one looks for an ‘out’, even if it be politically if they are unable latch onto some ‘other’ identity. (See also).
But let’s cut to the root of it, and return back to commenter Uh:
[Mixed-race persons] are encouraged to “not pass” and identify as whatever [partial] non-white they are, to do their part in the erasing of “whiteness”.