How Black women in the spotlight negotiate the post-racial gaze of Hollywood and beyond
From Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Shonda Rhimes to their audiences and the industry workers behind the scenes, Ralina L. Joseph considers the way that Black women are required to walk a tightrope. Do they call out racism only to face accusations of being called “racists”? Or respond to racism in code only to face accusations of selling out? Postracial Resistance explores how African American women celebrities, cultural producers, and audiences employ postracial discourse—the notion that race and race-based discrimination are over and no longer affect people’s everyday lives—to refute postracialism itself. In a world where they’re often written off as stereotypical “Angry Black Women,” Joseph offers that some Black women in media use “strategic ambiguity,” deploying the failures of post-racial discourse to name racism and thus resist it.
In Postracial Resistance, Joseph listens to and observes Black women as they perform and negotiate race in strategic ambiguity. Using three methods of media analysis—textual readings of the media's representation of these women; interviews with writers, producers, and studio executives; and audience ethnographies of young women viewers—Joseph maps the tensions and strategies that all Black women must engage to challenge the racialized sexism of everyday life, on- and off-screen.
“With the spectacular
visibility of Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Beyoncé, such a book is
needed now, perhaps, more than ever. To advance
conversations about the intersections of race, class, gender, media, and accomplishment, Ralina Joseph introduces
us to the concept of ‘strategic ambiguity,’ one that complicates the realities
of celebrity life for women of color in the wake of the ‘postracial’ condition.”-Herman Gray,author of Cultural Moves, African Americans and the Politics of Representation
“A fascinating study
that boldly mines the complexities of racial and gender microaggressions in
contemporary media, examining the many ways in which Black women culture
workers and consumers have navigated said minefields. Through nuanced readings
of our notoriously vexed “postracial” pop cultural landscape, and through rich
explorations of Black women and their audiences, Ralina Joseph has written a
necessary accompaniment to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.”-Daphne Brooks,author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910