Black optimism is not the negation of the negation

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Unformatted text preview: o do more than reiterate theoretical and historical insights that, taking James Weldon Johnson18 as a reference, are nearly a century old (and much older if one considers the archive of colonial discourse) (see McClintock, 1995; Said, 1979; Stoler, 1995; Zantopp, 1997). Having established these deep structural connections in broad strokes, I want to focus now upon one particular aspect of Hernton’s work as part of the larger effort to illuminate the intricate entanglement of race and sexuality. Though Hernton is quite sure that race relations are always already in some sense sex relations, the nature of the relation between the relations, as it were, presents itself as a persistent enigma (as is the case for Fanon and Johnson before him). Early in his text, Hernton describes the historical sexual involvement of whites and blacks in the US as ‘at once real and vicarious…so immaculate and yet so perverse, so ethereal and yet so concrete’ (Hernton, 1988, p. 6). He marvels at the ways in which an apparition of sexual...
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