Hope Draped in Black: Race, Melancholy, and the Agony of Progress
Figures of the Postracial: Race, Nation, and Violence in the Age of Obama and Morrison
This chapter introduces two different ways of imagining the postracial. On the one hand, the postracial names a state and place beyond racial difference and inequality, or a condition advancing toward this state. This version of the post-racial overlooks how over-confident narratives, especially when attached to collective images of the nation, justify various forms of violence and erasure. On other hand, the postracial signifies the ways racial striving and loss are mediated and informed by other subject positions and identities, including gender, class, and citizenship. In this chapter, I look at Obama’s speeches and writings, showing how his attunement to race is diminished by a logic of national exceptionalism. This logic, chapter 5 argues, cites and interprets black strivings and experiences in ways that tend to buttress triumphant images of America, thereby downplaying how the nation-state becomes a displaced site of racism, acceptable violence, and erasure. Because this logic in Obama’s speeches and writings resonate with Richard Rorty’s arguments about the relationship between pride and shame, I offer a comparison with Rorty’s provocative text, Achieving Our Country.To provide a different conception of race and nation, one that takes seriously the violence involved in our attachments to solid (individual and collective) identities, this chapter provides a creative reading of Toni Morrison’s Paradise.