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CONCLUSION

By comparing three decades of passing films that were made during periods of unstable racial identity, and significant political progress for African Americans, the construction of race can be understood as a shifting cultural phenomenon that defined categories of privilege and the nature of power relationships between whites and blacks. The inability of black characters to successfully pass as white in these films demonstrates the rigidity of the definition of blackness versus the flexibility of racial categorization for other groups (e.g. Irish and Jewish immigrants were intially categorized as another race, however, over time, they were able to assimilate). This rigid definition of blackness assures the maintainance of white skin privilege, and alleviates any fears for whites that they could "at any moment become a slave, or black" (Browder).

For many audience members, passing films represented the potential to debunk myths about race. However these films were limited in their ability to change race relations because they relied on existing popular assumptions about race and identity.