try, verb intransitive

Origin:
EnglishShow more Special sense of general English.
In the phrase to try for white, and (less frequently) to try for black, to try for coloured, to attempt to pass oneself off as a white (or black or coloured) person in order to gain the privileges and advantages of belonging to that ethnic group; cf. play sense 1. Also attributive, and figurative.
[1948 O. Walker Kaffirs Are Lively 131It is any wonder that the number of young Coloured people who ‘try vir Europeane’ (as they put it) is a considerable factor in population trends?]
1951 L.G. Green Grow LovelyIn the United States they call it ‘crossing the line’. The phrase in Cape Town is ‘trying for white’...Success..carries its own penalties. It means, often enough, the loss of family and friends. All the dark-skinned ones must be left behind, passed in the street without a word of greeting.
1962 D. Marais I Got a Licence (cartoon)If Bantu bars are going to be open an hour later now’s the time to try for Black.
1964 G. Gordon Four People 58‘She is so light skinned,’ said Katie, ‘why doesn’t she try for Coloured? Then she wouldn’t need a pass.’
c1968 J. Pauw in New S. Afr. Writing 54She was Coloured. She was one of hundreds he knew, who had tried for white and got away with it.
1970 Daily Dispatch 30 Jan. 14I decided that the tribal terrier would have to Try for White...After a visit to the vet for various injections.., his mange spots disappeared and his coat glowed with health.
1975 Sunday Times 23 Sept. (Mag. Sect.) 5Ellen L— has fought bitterness and anger for most of her life. Descended from a Jewish grandfather and a Xhosa grandmother, her fair skin and pale eyes early on put her in a ‘try for white’ situation.
1987 C. Rickard in Weekly Mail 3 Apr. 6McBride ‘tried for white’ at one stage, and after being rejected and humiliated, took on ‘an African identity’.
to attempt to pass oneself off as a white (or black or coloured) person in order to gain the privileges and advantages of belonging to that ethnic group;
Derivatives:
Hence try-for-white noun, one who tries for white.
1989 J. Hobbs Thoughts in Makeshift Mortuary 202She hasn’t cut us dead like most of the other try-for-whites do when they make it to the other side.
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19481989

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