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Hiding Your Heritage

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"My birth certificate doesn't say that I'm Xhosa, which technically I am. And it doesn't say that I'm Swiss, which the government wouldn't allow. It just says that I'm from another country. My father isn't on my birth certificate. Technically, he's never been my father."

A character hides their ethnic background for whatever reason, though either fears of persecution or hiding their family are the usual causes. This involves trying to "pass" as another race (usually white) and might include creating a Naturalized Name. If the person doesn't pass well-enough this is a Pass Fail.


Compare to Hide Your Otherness for fantasy variants, Hiding the Handicap for when a character wants to hide a disability rather than their ancestry, Fauxreigner for when a native-born character claims to be a foreigner, and Really Royalty Reveal when a character is revealed to have royal heritage. If biracial, the character is likely trying to avoid Half-Breed Discrimination. Super-Trope to Pass Fail.



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     Anime & Manga 
  • Kallen Kozuki from Code Geass is half-Japanese and half-Britannian. She passes as Britannian amongst Britannians (and goes by "Kallen Stadtfeld"), but prefers to be seen as Japanese.
  • One Piece:
    • Portgas D. Ace's mother tried to hide the fact that he is the son of the Pirate King, Gold Roger, by postponing his birth until long after Roger's death, because the Marines were hunting pregnant women and young mothers for the possible chance that Roger may have a child. Only Ace himself, Garp (his adopted grandpa), Dadan and her bandit family (his adopted family), Luffy, and Sabo (his adopted brothers) knew about it for his childhood. When he went out to sea, however, the World Government found out about it through unknown means and broadcast the information at his execution.
    • It's revealed in later chapters that Sanji was actually a prince of Germa Kingdom, son of the infamous conqueror Vinsmoke Judge. Sanji was told by Judge in the past to not reveal his heritage to anyone before Sanji exiled himself.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Due to the persecution that the Ishvalans face, Scar, on a journey of vengeance to kill as many state alchemists in the country of Amestris following their committing of the Ishval Massacre, hides his heritage by way of wearing sunglasses to avoid revealing the distinctive red irises that Ishvalans have.
  • Soul Eater: Averted in one set of episodes. Black Star and Tsubaki on assignment go to a village to track down and detain a weapon. However, the duo encounter hostility due to the former's relation to the murderous, avaricious, and soul-stealing Star Clan (of which Black Star was the only one spared by Lord Death due to being only an infant and thus not having taken part in those afflictions committed by his family). Rather than keeping a low profile and keeping any part of his heritage a secret, Black Star, given his arrogant nature, proudly proclaimed who he was and made their mission all the bit more difficult.
  • Hybrids in Beastars that can convincingly pass for a purebreed species generally try to do so to avoid Half-Breed Discrimination.

     Comic Books 
  • The graphic novel Incognegro is a period-piece about a light-skinned reporter who passes for white in order to write about racial hate crimes in the South.
  • In Anya's Ghost, Anya hides the fact she is Russian by saying that her last name is "Brown" instead of "Borzakovskaya". She eventually decides to own up to it.
  • Miss Martian is actually not a Green Martian. She is a White Martian who simply passes as a Green Martian. Martian Manhunter was the last Green Martian at the time (though the New 52 changed that). M'gann is a White Sheep amongst her Always Chaotic Evil race.

     Fan Works 
  • Cards Adler, of RWBY fic, A More Flawed Gem, keeps her bird Faunus heritage a secret by wearing a nifty beret.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Son of the Desert, Edward and Alphonse are half-Ishvalan through their mother. They don't look Ishvalan, so people don't know this unless they mention it.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku is a Kryptonian who is constantly trying to pass for a Japanese human boy with an amazing Quirk to steer clear of his world's anti-alien hysteria. Luckily, the House of El originated on Twenx in this story, which gives him typical Asian features as well as dark hair and eyes, allowing him to blend right in.
  • In the Avatar the Last Airbender oneshot Only Truly Dead, June, Ty Lee, the sand-benders, and the Yu-Yan Archers are all descended from Air Nomads who survived the Fire Nation genocide. They all either hide their heritage or don't know of it, leaving Aang to believe he is the Last of His Kind.
  • In now that i can see your face (i can stand up to anything.), Fred is half-Native American but dyes his hair blond to blend in more at his school. He was born with blond hair but it's become brownish since then.

     Film — Animation 
  • Frozen II: It's shown that Queen Iduna hid that she was Northuldra. Not even her children knew this. The only person in her life who apparently knew was her husband.
  • My Little Pony: A New Generation: Due to the rampant xenophobia between the three pony kinds, several characters have to disguise themselves to enter the other groups' towns.
    • Hitch disguises himself as a pegasus in order to get into Zephyr Heights.
    • Sunny, Hitch, Pipp and Zipp have to wear fake unicorn horns (as well as the latter two concealing their wings) to pass among the unicorns in Bridlewood.

     Film — Live Action 
  • Days of Glory: Said is an Algerian Muslim serving in World War II in the French army, under a French sergeant named Martinez. Said notices the photo of Martinez as a baby with his mother, who was an Algerian Arab, revealing that Martinez is actually a 50/50 mix. When Said mentions this, Martinez gets violently angry, hits Said, and screams at him to never tell anyone else.
  • Harriet: One of the slaves toward the end escaping with Harriet is a biracial woman, who's light enough to pass for White. This comes in handy as she covers their escape (while also disguised as a man) to the patrollers and when one sees her resemblance to her master truthfully answers that she's his child.
  • Illusions (1982): As if being a woman at a film studio in 1940s Hollywood wasn't daunting enough, Mignon has a secret: she's black. Or rather, she's biracial and light-skinned enough that she can pass for white.
  • Elia Kazan attempted this in the 1949 film Pinky. He tried the reverse of this in the Oscar-winning film Gentleman's Agreement.
  • The Hindenburg (1975): Breslau's grandmother was Jewish, but he hides this from his wife and children (as well as the Nazis) and claims to have no relatives in Germany.
  • Imitation of Life follows Peola (in the 1934 version) and Sarah Jane (in the 1959 version), a light-skinned black girl who can quite easily pass for white, trying her best to deny her mother and her previous life altogether. It doesn't end well. In the 1934 version, Peola is humiliated when her dark-skinned mother comes to meet her at school as a child, and later she has to quit her job when her mother tracks her down at work. In the 1959 version, it's worse for Sarah Jane — her white boyfriend beats her senseless when he finds out, and she gets fired from her job as a cabaret dancer when her mother comes looking for her.
  • Passing: Like the novel, in 1920s New York Irene finds that her childhood friend Clare, who is black, has been passing for white for years. Clare's husband John has no idea despite being a virulent racist, although he does note that Clare has gotten darker over their marriage and "affectionately" calls her a racial slur as a pet name. Irene herself is also able to pass, although she only does it in certain situations.
  • In Slow Burn, a white DA has been braiding her hair and passing for mixed in order to foster support in her African-American constituency.
  • Veiled Aristocrats is a 1932 remake of the lost 1927 film The House Behind The Cedars. Both films were directed by Oscar Micheaux. It's about a light-skinned black man named John who has been passing as white for 20 years. He comes home and persuades his younger sister Rena to come live with him and also pass as white. Rena however doesn't enjoy lying about her background and the film ends with her declining to marry a white man to elope with her black ex-boyfriend. The original 1927 film was originally banned due to its bluntness about race. It was only allowed to be released after several scenes were cut.
  • Horace in C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America accuses John Ambrose Fauntroy of having black ancestry, which would ruin his chances at the Confederate presidency. Most damning was the phrase "he got the jungle blood, and he know it too!" — hinting that Fauntroy knew he was part black and hid it. It's not made clear if Horace was telling the truth or not, but Fauntroy killed himself after losing the election.
  • Jefferson from the 1920 film The Symbol of the Unconquered is half-black and half-white. He tries to pass as white and it usually works. His one Pass Fail occurred because his (black) mother showed up at the wrong time.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit combines this with Hide Your Otherness, as the movie takes place in a fictionalised Los Angeles where Toons are a persecuted minority. The villain turns out to be a Toon in a Human Disguise aiming to commit Genocide from the Inside for his own profit.

  • When the titular character of Sarny meets Miss Laura, she describes her as the "prettiest white woman I ever saw". Miss Laura takes in Sarny and her friend Lucy. She lets them work for her during the final portion of The American Civil War. Not soon afterwards Sarny finds out that Miss Laura is what used to be called an "octoroon" (people who are 1/8 black), and that she hides her curly hair underneath a head scarf. Sarny is amazed that a black woman could be as rich and high class as Miss Laura.
  • The Benjamin January series, set in New Orleans in the 1830s, contains several characters with black ancestry passing as white; it's made clear that exposure will have awful consequences, even several generations down the line.
  • Black Like Me is an example of short term passing, and a rare example of a white man passing as a black man. The author John Howard Griffin actually artificially darkened his skin under the care of a doctor and journeyed through the American South to get a first-person perspective on what it was like to be black.
  • In Edith Hahn Beer's autobiography The Nazi Officer's Wife she tells the story of how she was able to pass as an Aryan when a friend of hers would pretend to have lost her ID and leave her documents to her. The plan goes a little too well as the eponymous Nazi officer started courting her and proposing marriage... even after finding out that she's Jewish.
  • One of the main themes of Caucasia. Birdie and Cole Lee are both half-black-half-white and at different times must attempt to pass for one or the other to fit in or blend into the surroundings. Cole has darker skin and kinky hair, so she has difficulty passing as anything but black, but Cole uses speech, mannerisms, and even modifications to the way she looks to try to pass as either.
  • In Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, George Peavey has twin sons, Jasper, the light-skinned one, and Artis, the dark-skinned one. Jasper later joins a club in Birmingham whose members are so light their pictures have made it into the paper as those of a white organization. There's a chapter where his daughter goes shopping in a department store, pretending she's white, when her uncle Artis runs into her. She reacts in such a way, though she knows who he is, that the store staff believes he's harassing her.
  • A subplot in The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, concerns a mixed-race girl who was given up for adoption by her mother because she looked white, and in 1950's Mississippi the social pressure on the mother was too much. The girl later returns to her birth mother in Jackson, where she deliberately passes for white at a Daughters of the American Revolution meeting, then lets everyone there know that she is, in fact, black (and indeed, a member of the Black Panthers). It does not end well.
  • The Lions of Little Rock is a young adult novel set in Alabama in the 1950s, just as schools are being integrated. The main character learns that Liz, the new girl at her school, wasn't just tan from the summer but African-American. Liz is then ostracized by peers of both races. She was able to pass until being seen at a black church, though.
  • Nella Larsen's 1929 novel Passing is entirely about examining this phenomenon — it contains three "black" women, one who has basically switched to a white identity by continuously passing, one that can pass, but doesn't, and one who passes occasionally out of convenience. It does not work out well for the first two in the end.
  • In The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, a girl who counts as white in 1960 goes back in time to 1860, where because of her suntan, curly hair, and resemblance to her plantation-owning ancestors she is classified as black and assumed to be the offspring of a wayward son of the family and one of his slaves, making her a slave herself. After she returns to her own time, she is assumed to have run away and an advertisement is issued. In the description of her, it says, "Could pass for white." Researching her family history, she learns that after the Civil War, the aforementioned wayward son inherited the plantation and passed off his former-slave wife as a white woman from France so as their descendant, the protagonist really does have a few black genes.
  • The entire point of James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. The nameless protagonist is a very light-skinned "octaroon" (or less) in the late 19th-early 20th century, who is nonetheless raised as black (albeit a very sheltered kind of black, only mingling with the black upper crust and with an unusually large number of white people in his social circle (easier to believe in New England). A gifted pianist, he spends his young adulthood in that field, eventually learning ragtime music and touring Europe with a rich white man. However, he eventually quits ragtime after seeing a lynching, decides to pass as white, and becomes a businessman and marries a white woman, who does not realize his heritage. The book is based in part on Johnson's life (he could pass if he grew his facial hair right), but also on the lives of others Johnson knew.
  • This is part of the backstory of the Fannie Flagg novel Welcome To the World, Baby Girl! The (blonde, blue-eyed) protagonist's mother turned out to be of mixed race, the daughter of a German woman and a very light-skinned African American man who had moved to Europe to escape from the racial discrimination of the United States but had been forced to move back with the rise of Hitler. She could, physically, pass for white without trying, but had spent her adult life in terror of being "outed" by someone who knew about her background which was the reason for her secretive and evasive behavior during the protagonist's childhood.
  • Gustave de Beaumont's novel "Marie; ou, L'Esclavage aux Etats-Unis" ("Marie, or Slavery in the United States"), published in 1835, is the first known novel featuring Black-White racial passing.
    Narrator: Public opinion, ordinarily so indulgent to fortune-seekers who conceal their names and previous lives, is pitiless in its search for proofs of African descent.... There is but one crime, of which the guilty bear everywhere the penalty and the infamy; it is that of belonging to a family reputed to be of color. Though the color may be effaced, the stigma remains.
  • Mark Twain's Puddin Head Wilson has the son of a wealthy family and a slave getting Switched at Birth. This is possible because the slave boy has only the barest fraction of African ancestry, so he looks exactly the same as any other white person. The book highlights the stupidity of slavery and racism.
  • The title character of Queenie is a beautiful half-caste girl born in Mumbai during The Raj. Fair enough to pass for white, she conceals her Indian parentage and makes her way to London, where her looks and talent get her noticed by a film producer who helps propel her to stardom in the still-overtly racist Hollywood of the 1930s. The novel is considered a Roman à Clef — author Michael Korda based the story on the life of his aunt, legendary actress Merle Oberon (see entry under Real Life).
  • The titular character of The Sheik is a European pretending to be an Arab. He mostly gets away with it, too; the only way the female protagonist finds out he's not is because his best friend, a Frenchman, gives him away.
  • In The Human Stain by Philip Roth, the elderly professor Coleman Silk is a pale-skinned black man who spent his entire adult life posing as Jewish in order to avoid institutional racism in the 1950s. He goes so far as to cut his family out of his life entirely, claiming that they had died. Ironically, he's forced into retirement after being accused of racism by two black students, but he maintains the pretense even then.
  • Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter covers up his half-Muggle ancestry so he can use pureblood supremacism to rally his followers, called Death Eaters. At least some of them may know his parentage since the ritual that resurrects him requires bone from his father's grave in a Muggle cemetery. Furthermore, some older Death Eaters who went to Wizarding School with Voldemort may remember that his original surname didn't come from any pureblood families. But the only Death Eater to acknowledge this is Barty Crouch Junior, who sympathises with Voldemort because they "both had disappointing fathers".
  • Jacob's Rescue: In this account set in Poland during the Holocaust, Jacob stays with a family named the Roslans in order to avoid capture by the Nazis. In addition, he is joined by his brothers Sholom and David, and he also has the aid of his uncle in hiding him from the Nazis. Jacob's uncle and David are able to more easily pass as non-Jewish (in David's case because he has straight, blond hair), of which brings Jacob some envy towards David as the latter can go about more freely with less concern of being captured and taken away.
  • In The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen, a blackmailer has been going after several of the novel's characters. One of them was being threatened with this trope; the character in question had a black ancestor (but appeared Caucasian).
  • Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers has a war between two races of giant scorpion-like aliens, a black (good) and a white (evil) one. An albino of the black race works undercover on the enemy planet.
  • Rosa in the Sweet Valley High book Rosa's Lie moved to America from Mexico when she was four. She tries to blend in at her school by hiding that she's Mexican, going as far as to call herself "Rose".
  • In The Vanishing Half, identical twins Desiree and Stella are Black but are light enough to pass for white. Stella actually does so and marries a white man, never telling anyone her secret, while Desiree marries a dark skinned Black man and eventually returns to their hometown.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • "Hero" has a demon-blooded youth sneer to Doyle that Doyle's life must have been a cakewalk compared to his own, as Doyle, while also part-demon, is "passing" (i.e., looks human, unlike the boy).
    • "Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been" involves a half-black woman who was fired from her job at a bank in the '50s when it was learned she had been passing as white.
  • Cold Case:
    • One episode dealt with the murder of a pale-skinned Negro who had been passing as a white in the 1950s.
    • Another episode had an aversion with a black female victim from the early 1930s or so, whose secret white lover tried in vain to get her to pass for white so they could run away together. The actress was clearly black but camera effects lightened her complexion.
    • "Colors" featured an African American baseball player (the victim) and his passing-as-white girlfriend.
  • One episode of Law & Order has a black guy who spent his whole adult life passing for white. He's only found out after his second wife was killed when they considered taking back their darker-skinned baby they had given up for adoption. His first wife killed the second in order to maintain the illusion of an all-white family for her son, who was attending a very upper-class-white school with subtle social discrimination against non-whites. Or, so she said, until it was revealed that she'd never wanted to take custody of their son in the divorce, had to be bribed to do it, and she was really just a big ol' racist.
  • One Blue Bloods episode has Erin trying to get an apparently light-skinned black rapper to testify against an associate in a murder. His white parents turn up during The Teaser; his skin color is implied to be from cosmetics, e.g. spray-on tan. He says he identifies more with working-class inner-city blacks despite being a middle-class white guy from suburbia.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" Simon Tarses is one-quarter Romulan, but claimed to be one-quarter Vulcan to avoid prejudice.
  • One case of Caso Cerrado involved a woman pressing charges against her husband because he refused to have biological children with her. She was black and he was mixed-race, albeit white-passing. His grandmother was black but began to pass as white and married a white man. She was dying and wouldn't allow her grandchildren any inheritance if they had children with black or brown women.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: In Cry Wilderness, Jim is a Native American who avoids most of the stereotypes associated with those characters. Jonah and the bots joke that he's actually German: other people just assumed Jim is Native American, and he never bothered to correct them.
  • The George Lopez Show had a variant: George's biological sister (who's Hispanic) was adopted by an Italian family and thus grew up unintentionally passing until she discovered her biological family.
  • Laura Montez from Veep's maiden name is the very British "Cunningham" and she was born in the very white state of Connecticut before moving to another very white state, Ohio as a child. After college, she married a man who was born in Mexico, took his surname, and moved to the majority Latino state of New Mexico. In order to be the Token Minority, she lets people assume she's a white-passing Latina. She often says her first name "Low-rah" like you would in Spanish rather than "Lore-a" like you would in English.
  • Jacqueline from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is Native American (Lakota specifically), but uses hair dye and make-up to look white. She treated her heritage as a point of shame but comes to embrace it more after divorcing her cheating husband.
  • Watchmen (2019): As Hooded Justice Will pretended to be white by putting makeup on what little skin showed beneath his mask, due to the rampant racism of the time.
  • mixed•ish: Johan's done this at his school, it turns out, saying he's Mexican after other students thought he was. Bo and his parents are not happy with this, but they understand as he's tired of explaining he's mixed race, plus had been called a racial slur over it.

     Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Book of Esther, the titular heroine hides the fact that she is Jewish from the Persian court, for fear of persecution. She keeps this secret until a climactic dinner with the king and his chief adviser, to reveal that she and her people have been targeted for genocide by the royal orders and to beg him to stop it.

  • In Show Boat. Steve is white, and his wife Julie is mixed-race, passing for white (their marriage was a crime in the South at the time). When someone tips the local sheriff off and he comes to arrest them, Steve quickly cuts Julie's hand and swallows her blood; when the sheriff arrives, he asks, "You wouldn't call a man a white man that's got Negro blood in him, would you?" He swears to having that blood in him (and thus, he pretends to be passing for white); the two are able to leave the boat, and the South, in peace.

     Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed III, Achilles worries that his protege, Ratonhnhake;ton, won't be accepted amongst the American colonists if they know that he's half-British, half-Native American, so he gives him a new name, Connor, and tells him to pass himself off as a Spaniard if anyone questions his heritage.
  • Inverted in Arcanum by Gar, a human who, by a freak accident of birth, has the appearance of a full-blooded orc. He keeps his human heritage secret because his own existence brings shame in his family (orcs being frequent victims of Fantastic Racism) and because the freakshow act he performs in needs the customers to believe he's an orc in order to be a success.
  • In Bioshock Infinite, it is revealed that Father Comstock, and by extension his Alternate Self Booker DeWitt, are part Sioux. This serves to underscore both men's pasts, as before the Point of Divergence that split the two they participated in the Battle of Wounded Knee, committing multiple atrocities just to cement their racial identity to their fellow whites.
  • In Final Fantasy X, Rikku hides her true identity as an Al Bhed from Wakka because he's prejudiced against Al Bhed.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, Branded are Half-Human Hybrids of Beorc and Laguz, and are treated with Fantastic Racism by both, so most have to hide it. Some pass themselves off as mages who've made contracts with spirits, another act that leaves skin markings. This rarely works, as Laguz' Super Senses can detect them, and Beorc will notice how slowly they age after enough time in their company.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
    • Claude von Riegan is half Almyran, but due to cultural and racial prejudice he has to hide it especially since he is the future head of one of the three houses of Fodlan. He only opens up about his racial identity to Byleth, Petra, Balthus, and his fellow Almyran Cyril, and even then he still hides the fact that he is not just Almyran but also Almyran royalty.
    • Seteth and Flayn are part of a dragon-like race called the Nabataeans, but hide this due to certain villainous groups namely, "those who slither in the dark" seeking their blood for its magical properties. To keep up the ruse, Seteth pretends to be Flayn's older brother, when he's actually her father.
  • In Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, the titular Stranger is actually a Steef, a lion-buck-centaur hybrid creature, but masquerades as a bipedal being because Steefs are popular game for hunters to the point where they became endangered.
  • Near the end of Valkyria Chronicles, Princess Cordelia takes off her hennin to reveal that she and House Randgriz, the ruling house of Gallia, are not of Valkyrur but instead of Darcsen descent. Not only that, it is also revealed that House Randgriz acted as The Quisling during the Valkyrur's invasion of the Darcsen lands ages ago, and were rewarded by being allowed to reign over Gallia while the rest of their kind suffered persecution. She comes clean to the rest of the world in the epilogue, as her experiences throughout the story have encouraged her to break with tradition and atone for her family's sins.

     Western Animation 
  • Miss Martian is a White Martian in Young Justice (2010), just like in the comics, however, her reason for hiding it is different. It's instead written like a more traditional example of this trope. In this verse, White Martians and Green Martians co-exist, however White Martians suffer Fantastic Racism back on Mars. M'gann is half-White and half-Green, though physically she looks like a White Martian.
  • Family Guy: In "Family Goy", Lois discovers that her mother hid the fact that she was Jewish so Carter could get into country clubs. She found out when Dr. Hartman went through her family's medical history and mentioned that her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor.
    Lois: Oh my God, so Grandma Hebrewberg was actually Jewish?
    Babs: Yes. When she moved to America, her family changed their name. It was originally "Hebrewbergmoneygrabber".
  • Alfred J. Kwak: The major villain Dolf is the son of a crow and a blackbird. He's mostly able to pass for a crow, but is left with a yellow beak which he has dyed black since he was a young child.

     Real Life 
  • A woman named Gail Lukasik grew up believing herself to be white but noted her mother's odd behavior growing up. Her mother avoided exposing her skin to the sun, wore heavy makeup even when going to sleep, and never let her children meet any of her family. Decades later, Lukasik was digging through old family records and found out her mother and her family were listed as black, with her mother's birth certificate confirming it. She confronted her mother, who reluctantly admitted to being mostly African-American, but passed herself off as a white woman from young adulthood on, even to her husband. She made her daughter promise never to tell anyone her secret while she was still alive. After her mother's death, Lukasik published a book called "White Like Her", in which she details her discovery and family history. View this news video here for more information.

Alternative Title(s): Hide Your Heritage