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The Importance Of Identity And Identity

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In late nineteenth-century America, racial identification was a rigid system. Besides appearance, both heritage and mannerisms were factors that dictated the race of a person. State laws specified that heritage determines race. Specifically, laws of “hypodescent” were created, in which ‘One drop of black blood’ trumped seven drops of ‘white’” (Sandweiss 7). This was a defined law used to restrict the rights of people who had an African American ancestor on the grounds that they were not racially pure. Someone may also may have perceived a racially-ambiguous person’s race through their mannerisms or language. Sandweiss states that “Todd” may have been able to take on a different personality or pick up on different phrases to make his race more believable. If a person did not act as others believed they should according to their race, they were treated differently and existed on a separate, lower hierarchical rung on the social ladder, as depicted in Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. Sandweiss states that a person may not look black, but “...a turn of phrase, or even a porter’s uniform” could “...relegate one to a public identity as a black person…” (Sandweiss 143). Other than appearance, a person seemingly had to pass a list of checkpoints in order to receive the privileges of being white, such as speaking with a sophisticated or familiar diction.
Not only were the standards rigid for determining race, but white people acted violently and belittled the intelligence of
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