Monday, January 25, 2010

If we're all living in a postracial world, Colson Whitehead must be its ruler

I know I've waxed rhapsodic about Colson Whitehead's satirical skills in the past. I just finished re-reading Apex Hides the Hurt since I'll be teaching this text next week, and I'm once again struck by Whitehead's spot-on sense of irony when it comes to exploring and explaining race in the 21st century. One of the things that he does in this novel that I really appreciate is that he does not ever tell you when a character is a person of color; instead, he reserves his racial markers for all the white characters in his fictional realm. It's an inversion of what most writers (esp. white writers) do in their fiction, namely leave out the race of all the characters and the main protagonist so that we assume whiteness to be the default, only mentioning someone's race when they are not white.

Anyway, I came across this piece that Whitehead did back in November forNew York Times Op-Ed piece on the postracial world we're all living in. It's a wonderfully satirical and sardonic look at life in the U.S. a year after Barack Obama's historic win and ascendancy into the Presidential office.

I know that there are people who really do believe that race no longer matters. That we are, indeed, experiencing life in a post-racial America. I also have some prime ocean real estate to sell them in Nevada.


Colby family said...

why is it that there are people who believe that we live in a post-racial america? I simply do NOT understand. I live "next door" to Northern Idaho, just this morning there was another report of a hate crime in Coeur d'Alene. The idea of Post-racial america is laughable to me.

dkh said...

Assumption inversion is one of the reasons I love to read Colson Whitehead's work. Have you read Sag Harbor yet?

Thanks for sharing the link to the NYT article.

Jennifer said...

Colby family,
I'm really with you on the post-racial thing. I think we want to get to a place where we think that race doesn't matter because we want to get to a place where racism doesn't exist. Which is nice thinking--like the idea of world peace and the end to sexism. I hope it comes true one day, but saying it's so doesn't make it so.

I am right in the middle of reading SAG HARBOR and it is laugh-out-loud funny. It, of course, helps that the protagonist is the same age as me, so propelling me back to the mid-80s, the sounds and smells and topics (like New Coke--that was not a good idea) is like a walk down memory lane.

Thanks for stopping by!