The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Book Review
A mask is used to shield you from something or someone dangerous. Masks were designed to protect. People tend to use a mask to hide a part of themselves. When people try to hide a part of themselves, it's because someone has dehumanized or invalidated that part of them. In the book The Vanishing Half, A girl named Stella, who is black but happens to be White passing, decides to become fully White. Stella's past was not easy because she saw how being black was more of a burden than anything good. Her dad being lynched, her mom constantly being colorist, and how differently society treated Black people. This made her feel afraid and insecure about being black. So she took the advantage and put on her mask to identify herself as white. Stella became white because of the privileges, but becoming white hurt her because she gained a guilty conscience.
Stella becomes white because of the privileges she will have. When you are white, you can have privilege. This is called white privilege. White privilege is an inherent advantage that a white person gets from their race. This helps white people to be viewed as superior and have more power. In the book Vanishing Half, on page 241, Stella says ¨She had become white because it was practical, so practical that at the time her decision seemed laughably obvious. Why wouldn’t you be white if you could be? Remaining what you were or becoming something new, it was all a choice, any way you looked at it. She had just made the rational decision.¨ In other words, Stella identifies as a white woman because it was the most logical reason for her. She wanted to be treated with respect, kindness and be accepted. She knew if she was a Black woman, she couldn't have that. Since she was a child, she will hear and see the degrading and belittling of Black women. This made her fearful. Being white gave her a good life. She got married to a rich white guy, lived in a stable, lavish home, nice neighbors, a child of her dreams, which is white-passing. Now she is going to college to become a professor of statistics. If she was to identify as a Black woman, she honestly couldn't have what she has as a white woman. There would be a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome. Stella turned white for survival. Since Stella became white, it helped her gain privileges.
Stella becoming white hurt her because she gained a guilty conscience . A guilty conscience Is when your conscience is the part of your mind that tells you whether what you are doing is right or wrong. If you have a guilty conscience, you feel guilty about something because you know it was wrong. Stella's feelings of guilt are expected because she identifies as white even though she is Black. Seeing her new friend, Loretta, who is black, get treated badly makes her feel terrible. She knows the way Loretta is getting treated is wrong, but will not stand up for her. In the Book Vanishing Half on the page,193 it states “I’m sorry,” Stella said. For what, exactly, she didn’t know… She didn't defend Loretta. Not even too silly Cath Johansen. She conscripted her own daughter to lie, afraid her husband would find out she socialized with the woman. “You think I want your guilt?” she said. “Your guilt can’t do anything for me, honey. You want to feel good about feeling bad. You can go on and do it right across the street” This shows Stella's guilt is getting to her because she apologized to Loretta. Loretta believes she should do the right thing, like not allow or tolerate racism and Stella has done the opposite. She has been aggressive and even racist towards Loretta and her daughter. Stella's partner Blake would say the n-word with hard r in front of Stella and Kennedy. Also, she is surrounded by people who are racist, specifically neighbors. She even talks about Loretta badly behind her back whenever she is with the neighbors. Stella sees Loretta struggling and she understands that because she was once Black. But Stella knows she cannot defend Loretta or publicly support her because people may realize she is Black or a ¨trader”. She realizes how her being white influences every part of her life. Thus, Stella becoming white hurt her because she gained a guilty conscience.
Overall, Stella became white because of the privileges, but becoming white hurt her because she gained a guilty conscience. Our identity is complex and as we get older, we realize who we are or whom we want to be. Society can impact how we choose to portray ourselves and with that we have to make choices based on logical reasons or emotions. Stella's identity is so difficult to the point she can't even realize what she really wants. She is constantly overthinking and overcompensating. People wear masks because they have to. Imagine living in a world without hate or people's judgment. People would not hide and would be comfortable. Race, gender, and class play a huge role in our identity. Once someone attacks that, people will lose themselves.