Race Talk

keeping up with the "national conversation on race"

Mel Gibson & Samir Shabazz

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Wow, it’s shaping up to be a busy summer with our “national conversation on race.” The stories just keep coming fast and furious, with the two most recent ones effectively bookending the range of comments currently being purveyed in public culture. Alongside Mel Gibson’s tirade imaging his ex-girlfriend being “raped by a pack of niggers” for dressing provocatively, we also have the heated debate over whether taunts of “cracker” and “white devil” allegedly hurled by members of the New Black Panthers outside of a Philadelphia polling place constitute voter intimidation.

This pair of stories somewhat contrarily suggest either that nothing has changed (e.g. Mel Gibson) or that, rather, everything has changed now that white “crackers” can “see what it is like to be ruled by a black man.” Either way, taken separately or in tandem, these incidents convey that the “post racial” future many imagined would arrive with the election of Barack Obama is a far stranger land than anticipated. But they also each reflect that Americans are still 1) raptly attuned to the relevance of race and 2) listen in a fairly informed manner, in the sense that new incidents are consistently referenced to our extensive, detailed public record on race.

Whatever “post racial” may come to mean—perhaps like “postmodernism,” it will signify a reconfiguration rather than a complete effacement of its core referent—race remains a central topic of conversation for Americans as we struggle to figure out how and why it continues to matter so much. With this blog, I’ll aim to update the basic perspective offered in my book, What Can You Say?, which provides a fundamental orientation to how this “national conversation on race” works. Despite a widespread belief that, suddenly, race would be “over” once Obama took office, we continue to be both intrigued and muddled by racial matters. But at least we’re still talking about it.


Written by jhartiganj

July 13, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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