10 Practical Ways to Pass As White

Cinemulatto is confident the U.S. Supreme Court will do the right thing when it decides on marriage equality. Until then, if a gay person wanted to engage in some act of national freedom such as, say, taking a cross-country trip through states supporting at least civil unions, a path could be reasonably made (if one assumes speeding through Utah and Nebraska, then taking a detour through Canada).

Mulattoes have a similar liberty! Having long ago earned the right to marry whomever we want (as far as race goes, at any rate), we now have sure-fire ways to safely straddle the social fence between black and white. We’re taking Cultural Frame Switching to a new level—and officially recognizing things a fun-loving mulatto can do to pass as white.

Stay tuned for future tips for passing as black.

  1. At office mixers, talk boldly about the thread count on sheets.
  2. Lose any hint of an accent. Practice diction.
  3. Engage your white friends in discussion on high-interest savings.
  4. Share made-up stories with strangers about a past summer job in upstate New York.
  5. Make up further stories about a childhood pet rock collection.
  6. Attend a ragtime festival. Take pictures and post to social media sites.
  7. Go fruit picking while wearing a sun hat and oversized shorts.
  8. Tend a flower garden during times of high foot traffic.
  9. Read Winning Chess Tactics on public transportation.
  10. Take up snag fishing.


Half-white Miller

We’ve mentioned him several times on the Cinemulatto Facebook page. When it comes to passing, Wentworth’s claim to fame is playing a white man on a television prison drama. A prison drama, where he plays a building engineer who holds up a bank to get thrown into prison on purpose to save his brother.

Who better to play this role than a mulatto?

Screenwriter, actor, model, producer, and Tigertone, this month we celebrate a man whose hand can almost cover the entire top of his head.

5 Really Bad Instances of “Ethnic” Casting

A recent Cinemulatto Facebook discussion on Breakfast at Tiffany’s had me thinking about really, really bad instances of white people playing people of color in movies. Sure, we have half-forgiven relics such as Al Jolson in blackface, Luise Rainer winning an Oscar for her role as a Chinese farmer, or even Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder. Gene Wilder is funny in Silver Streak and A Mighty Heart had decent acting. Plus, it’s long been a cinematic norm to have white people “stretching” to play non-white roles (or the occasional Filipino portraying someone like Richie Valens). History has kind of allowed us to pardon the simply misinformed choices of well-meaning casting directors.

Some casting decisions, however, were just really, really bad. Here are the most painful.

Not even close to black
  1. Anthony Hopkins – Coleman Silk in The Human Stain
    A Welsh man playing a black man passing as white. The younger version of Coleman Silk is played convincingly by Wentworth Miller. However, we couldn’t get beyond Hopkins’ British accent and the fact that not only does he not look remotely black, but he seems to have trouble sounding American. Was Tom Hanks busy?

  2. Mickey Rooney – Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Granted, Mickey Rooney didn’t mean to offend anybody. Still, this is just goofy. No longer funny. Bad. Truman Capote’s novella had Mr. Yunioshi in only a tiny role as Holly Golightly’s annoyed but smitten neighbor. No sign of false teeth, and he even had a hipster profession as a photographer. Where’s the spinoff?

    Gael García Bernal was a working actor in 2000
  3. Sean Penn – a Cuban peasant in Before Night Falls
    He appears in only one scene, and maybe someone wanted to add more A-list actor cred to Julian Schnabel’s sophomore film effort. I’m a big fan of Schnabel. I’m a small fan of the bad makeup job on Penn. I don’t get it—the cast is otherwise packed with Latino actors. As for A-list, wasn’t Johnny Depp enough, in two roles? Couldn’t he have played just one more tiny role as the peasant?

    Bad Comanche
  4. William Shatner – dual role as a white man and his Comanche brother in White Comanche
    Okay, the makers of this movie get points for featuring mixed-race brothers. They fight each other. Shatner whoops and hollers as an Indian brave. Guess which one smokes peyote? Shatner was at the top of his game with Star Trek, so maybe he thought he could do anything. Verdict: wrong.

    The stuff of nightmares
  5. Peter O’Toole – a Tibetan lama in Kim
    This is so bad, I don’t know where to start. Actually, I’ll start with the overwhelming sadness caused by knowing this is the man from Lawrence of Arabia. Please, avoid this made-for-TV movie from 1984 based on the Rudyard Kipling novel. The book: classic. Peter O’Toole as a Tibetan lama in a skull cap: horrible.

What are some of your least-favorite ethnic casting moments?