“There has always been a perilous tension between recognition and fetishism: between ennobled recognition and the degradation of stereotype.”
Derek Conrad Murray poses questions and argues on the politics of restrictions placed on an out of bounds and ever evolving, limitless experience of Blackness. A constant that appears within each argument are the historical constructions of Blackness curated by white culture. The article reads, “...historical constructions of the essential or authentic black subject have been largely shaped by the demands of white culture: expectations that require black nobility, respectability, and appropriateness in the face of persistent intolerance (p. 8)”. Murray expresses that much of these constructs that exist are being countered by acknowledging the root cause- providing context even on the political adaptations within the culture of Blackness.
The vision to be inclusive on the topic of the black race is an imperative one. Murray poses that a re-imagining of Black authenticity is necessary to reflect a more accurate representation of existence. I even reflect on the critical conversations that I have along with those observed and despite the “intellectual thought...there remains a constant thirst (demand) for what could be described as a more reified spectacle of commodified Blackness:...it is expected of the Black artist that they show that the system has made them suffer (p.8)”. So even with the acute awareness, the constructs of Blackness visually, are representative and restricted to narratives cultivated by white culture- which can seem like a cliche but are quite literally in play more often than not and should be considered in all forms until removed from the Black identity.
Today, we can still see conversations and highlights of the exclusion of women and those that identify as gay. And so I enjoy that this article reflects on how that looks within a group that is already working against the practice of anti-Blackness by those that are non-black. We get to see how Murray articulates the peripheral lens that caters to “the other” due to patriarchal heteronormativity. Murray challenges these existing narratives by recognizing time periods in which these lenses were not peripheral but thriving within a realm: “...at the height of the movement for integration, black queerness was replaced in public discourse and popular culture by heteronormativity (p.5)”.
On the constructions of Blackness, a quotable, “Blackness is itself a fantasy. It is...“a theatrical enterprise” that is the direct residue of white imaginary (p.2)”. This begs to question the identity of Blackness and what compositories are in place to bracket or engineer Blackness categorically. The theatrical enterprise even today, prevails in all aspects which has forced some to reduce their experience in conformity with respectability for those perpetuating intolerability. The “white imaginary” is not an idea, but a physical will that shapes, folds, and curates a limitation on Blackness and then requests (requires even) a performance: those that oblige enable the white imaginary to prevail encouraging this construction of blackness.
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