Thursday, November 19, 2009


Jordan Carter

Professor Wald presented an interesting method for perceiving the race narrative. She conveyed it not as one continuous struggle, but rather as a series of evolving narratives—contingent, but incongruous. I had never considered the abolition movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, Brown vs. The Board of Education, and the contemporary Civil Rights Movement as evolutionary punctuations in the evolution of the race narrative in the US. But after encoding Priscilla Wald's precise rhetoric, hoisted by legitimate examples, even the word's scientific connotations seem applicable. There's always a struggle, but it is never the same struggle—rather, an off-breed. The abolition moment was a narrative of its own, characterized by political campaigns and subversive acts. The Emancipation Proclamation derived from this narrative, but from it another was birthed. Blacks were free, but they were once again constrained by novel adversity in the form of perpetual racism and dwarfed political rights and representation. They may have been off the chain physically, but they were—as Frantz Fanon might put it—"crawl[ing] along. The white gaze, the only valid one...[was] dissecting them" (Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, pg. 95). It's actually quite chilling to reread Fanon after Wald's lecture, and catch some of the scientific connotations. His discussion of the "racial epidermal schema," in its use of 'epidermal'—a word more frequently used in a scientific dialectic than 'skin' or 'flesh.'

Perhaps the skin of the black man has changed via natural selection, constantly forming thicker skin. Those whose epidermal capacities are the strongest can elude the gaze, stand up against the nasty connotations of "blackness" and the "nausea" induced by carrying the "unusual weight" of color prejudice. Indeed, fragments of the hatred of the slave narrative polluted that of he narrative of freedom and equality. Throughout the 20th century, blacks have progressed not in a fluid manner, but in sort of a punctuated equilibrium. Blacks gained the right to go to school with whites, gain equivalent salaries, and today, a black man, Barrack Obama, is the president of the United States—the very country his African American counterparts were enslaved in a priori narrative.

Well it's not like Obama himself was ever enslaved...And his father was a voluntary emigrate, it wasn't like he was brought over here on a slave ship or something....I mean, he is half-white after all.

Woah! The narrative has once again evolved in my opinion. The White Man has historically been theorized to have an affinity for 'The Other,' relegated by repulsion and a desire for consumption—but lately this infamous discourse is being articulated in a new manner. The White Man actually wants a claim in the heritage of the black man, a claim in the very "blackness" he reviled. As Fanon notes in Black Skin White Masks, "For some years now, certain laboratories have been researching for a 'denegrification' serum. In all seriousness they have been rinsing out their test tubes and adjusting their scales and have begun research on how the wretched black man could white himself and thus rid himself of the burden of his bodily curse" During slave times, mulattoes were raped and persecuted as if they were black: even though many, if not most, were the children of their masters. And even today, our "perceptual unconscious" would categorize a dark-skinned mulatto as black. One drop used to be enough to dilute the whole batch. But today the White Man is scrambling to inject himself into the once 'dark abyss' turned golden cell line that is the Obama's heritage. I guess black isn't just black anymore. I guess black is no longer a "bodily [or biological] curse."

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