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‘Mixture is a Neoliberal Good’: Mixed-Race Metaphors and Post-Racial Masks

by Daniel McNeil
2 Jul 2012 • Comments (2) • Print
Posted: Post-Racial Imaginaries [9.1] | Article

This fight for democracy against the oppression of mankind will slowly leave the confusion of neo-liberal universalism to emerge, sometimes laboriously, as a claim to nationhood. It so happens that the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Many conservative commentators reacted to the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 with platitudes about the clash of civilizations. Robert Fulford, a prominent cultural critic for the Canadian National Post, was one of the few to tie a post-9/11 context to the fortieth anniversary of Frantz Fanon’s death. In an article strategically published at the beginning of Black History Month, Fulford claimed that Fanon’s classic texts were invoked and not read, as if The Wretched of the Earth was just another ironic commodity for consumers full of sound and fury who wear images of Malcolm X and Che Guevara without knowing anything about their commitment to human rights. To go further, he maintained that Fanon should be remembered as a ‘poisonous thinker’ who helped usher in a culture of violence and victimization in the West.[1]

Providing a critical alternative to Fulford, activists and scholars marked the fiftieth anniversary of Fanon’s passing with extensive discussions of his impact on social justice movements and intellectual debates about existentialism, phenomenology and psychoanalysis.[2] This short article takes a rather circuitous route to their commentaries on the legacy of Fanon’s explorative, suggestive and provocative work. It argues that the loaded metaphors Fanon used to target ‘half-breed’ translators in the 1950s and 60s have been creatively adapted by transnational intellectuals in their critique of forms of neoliberal multiculturalism that privilege the multiracial American citizen as a subject more universal and legitimate than even the multicultural world citizen.[3]

The article revolves around three sections and three conceptual metaphors in its attempts to address an oft-repeated element of Fanon’s work that has rarely been the subject of extended analysis or critical inquiry. The first section introduces three popular metaphors about mixed-race objects and ‘racial bridges’ that Fanon used to invoke the threat of bestial, immature and consumerist Others – metaphors that were not swept away by the winds of change in the 1960s, or the decline and fall of Black internationalist movements in the 1970s. It contends that similar metaphors and similes continue to frame representations of mixed-race individuals that emerged after the neoliberal revolution of the 1970s and 80s called for ‘new’ multicultural identities to replace ‘old-fashioned’ notions of racial essences. The second section documents how intellectuals such as David Theo Goldberg, Paul Gilroy and Lewis Gordon have engaged with Fanon and mixed-race metaphors in order to critique the slyness of neoliberal agents in the age of Obama. The third and final section also addresses three writers – Jared Sexton, Paul Spickard and Mark Anthony Neal – who have developed work on multiracial national subjects in the United States. The short conclusion contends that Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism avoids some of the pitfalls of national consciousness evident in the work of Spickard and Neal – and engages with the diasporic work of Fanon and ‘Fanon’s children’ in order to challenge multiracial, and post-racial, environments that deny the legitimacy of African American anger. In short, it uses Sexton’s vision of a global African American studies to illuminate some of the discordant affinities between more insular visions of ethnic American studies and the cultural project of neoliberal multiculturalism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Fanon’s Polemics and the Neoliberal Revolution
Although a number of writers have commented on the language and style of Fanon’s work,[4] little has been said about the trinity of mixed-race metaphors in Fanon’s writings that evoke absent fathers, prodigal sons and the spirit of capitalism. The first metaphor referred to animalistic subjects, and Fanon wryly explained that individuals who aspired to bourgeois respectability could not escape social identities that were linked to illegitimate acts in non-domestic settings. For example, one lengthy footnote in Black Skin, White Masks reminds the reader that the expression ‘made in the bushes’ was applied to all children with white fathers and black mothers in Martinique.[5] In regards to the second metaphor about childish subjects, Fanon questioned Mayotte Capécia and other so-called ‘educated mulattoes’ who wanted to add ‘a bit of whiteness’ to their lives of her protagonists.[6] Last but not least, Fanon tied his moral critique of the national bourgeoisie in formally independent nations to the commodification of mixed-race bodies for Western business by accusing profiteers and schemers of pimping ‘half-breed’ girls for Western tourists.[7]

Fanon’s tone startles contemporary actors who believe that animalistic terms used to describe mixed-race individuals are safely confined to the dustbin of history, and only racist idiots use terms like ‘half-breed’ and ‘mulatto’.[8] Lest we forget, Fanon’s language and style was informed by a historical conjuncture that pathologised mixed-race objects – in noting the gossip about mixed-race people ‘made in the bushes’ for example, he talks back to the animalistic and bestial overtones of derogatory terms such as ‘Rhineland Bastard’ (which was applied to children of mixed German and African parentage who were fathered by Africans in the French colonial army who occupied the Rhineland after World War I). Moreover, animalistic labels continue to be used to describe the pedigree of mixed-race individuals in Germany (where the term ‘Mischling’ is applied to people of mixed-race and mongrel dogs[9]), South Africa (where ‘bushie’ is used to describe mixed-race people in Afrikaans[10]), and an Anglosphere (where online dictionaries use ‘hybrid’ as one of the definitions of ‘bastard’[11]).

Even when derogatory labels are safely ensconced within scare quotes, metaphors of infantile and commodified mixed-race objects are invariably present in texts that support and critique corporate visions of multiculturalism. In the celebratory camp, proponents of liberal multiculturalism express their faith in visions of a post-racial present and future that prominently feature ‘coffee-coloured children.’  Revealingly, one episode of Will and Grace, a television show that rarely hid its desire to recruit viewers who defined themselves as well-educated, progressive and tolerant, involved the protagonists joking about the beauty of a mixed-race child by pouring milk in a macchiato. In the critical camp, radicals on the left and right invoke the authority of history – that smiler with the knife – in derisory comments about the immature daydreams of ‘little yellow dream children’.[12] In other words, radical egalitarians have little time for mixed-race individuals who tell others that they inhabit colourless identity or identify with a range of non-black colours (from the fantastical voyages of Jimi Hendrix’s purple haze to a risk-aversive beige identity that connotes comfort and consumerism like a couch from IKEA[13]), while radicals on the right denounce ‘coffee-coloured children’ as commodities who threaten to devour indigenous traditions.

The rise of consumer culture. The conquest of cool. Vacuous irony. Postmodernism. Many terms have been used to characterise the period between the winds of change in the 1960s, which  inspired Harvey Ward of the Rhodesian Broadcasting Company to call on Tory traditionalists in the British Commonwealth to resist a ‘coffee-coloured world’ in 1969,[14] and the debased public spheres of the early twenty-first century that encouraged Nick Griffin, Chairman of the British National Party, to seize and contest the position of victim against ‘mixed race, culturally rootless consumers’ in 2006.[15] Neoliberalism is another term that can be deployed to address a period decisively shaped by a cultural, political and economic project based on the idea that the free market is capable of acting as a guide for all human action and protecting a minimal package of minority cultural rights. Taking aim at the widespread use of neoliberalism in academic and wider public policy debates,  some commentators have alluded to George Orwell’s famous condemnation of dead metaphors and dishonest writing. For example, Brendan O’Neill has claimed that the word ‘neoliberalism’ has no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable,’ and informed us that attempts to explain the English riots of 2011 in terms of neoliberalism can only provide an idiot’s guide to social decay.[16] Other critics, such as Lawrence Grossberg, combine the difficult language of Adorno with the blunt Anglo-Saxon words of Orwell in order to maintain that scholarly work on neoliberalism stitches different meanings – new forms of capital accumulation, the expansion of the reach of corporate capitalism, and the indirect economization of areas of social and political life – ‘into an apparently dominant and harmonious formation.’[17] One can appreciate frustrations with work on neoliberalism that does not specify and contextualise the term it uses, as well as a term that is used to refer to cultural, economic, military and political practices that, with their links to European imperial practices, are neither new nor liberal.  Yet, as Stuart Hall reminds us, distrust of long-term theoretical ideas should not prevent us from giving neoliberalism a provisional identity, ‘especially when naming it in this way we can give resistance content, focus and a cutting edge.’[18]

As director of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham between 1968 and 1979, Hall confronted the ‘authoritarian populism’ of new right think tanks, such as the Centre for Policy Studies, which was founded by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph in 1974.[19] Like many other cultural theorists, Hall documented Thatcherism’s contradictory appeals to neoconservatives (who believed that white, English culture might be ‘swamped’ by alien groups), and neoliberals (who were dissatisfied with the consensus politics of post-war Britain that defended Keynesian economics, a mixed economy with the nationalization of major industries, the National Health Service and the modern welfare state).[20] Kobena Mercer’s Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (1994), an influential book that drew together essays written between 1985 and 1993, is a particularly good example of work that addressed this conjuncture – the coming together of a number of contradictory forces in key sites and practices. For while the early sections of Welcome to the Jungle exclusively target neoconservative enemies, its later sections moves on to address the alliance between neoliberalism and neoconservativism.[21]  Sections of its final essays even provide a means to conceptualise the neoliberal policies of ‘Third Way’ politicians, such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, who adopted economic deregulation into their transformation of mainstream centre-left parties in the early 1990s.

While baby boomers like Clinton and Blair were courting neoliberals and neoconservatives with appeals to ‘entrepreneurial selves’ and ‘workfare’, mixed-race scholars and activists celebrated the products of a so-called ‘biracial baby boom.’[22] Many of the memoirs, novels and social scientific work about mixed-race experiences in the United States that proliferated in the 1990s were intimately linked to the ‘children of Loving’ who emerged following the U.S Supreme court’s decision to declare Virginia’s support for interracial marriage unconstitutional in 1967.[23]  Some scholars who announced the dawn of critical mixed-race studies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries challenged forms of neoliberal governmentality that repressed discussions of institutionalized racism and eradicated all explicit discussions of race in public (except when it proved politically useful in discussions of health and law and order). However, relatively few of these critical scholars situated their work on mixed-race identities in relation to historical studies of mixing and mixture.[24] In one of the few attempts to assess mixed-race metaphors, Minelle Mahtani linked the four types of metaphors she used to frame her interviews with people who self-identified as mixed in Toronto, Canada – spies, tricksters, flies on the wall and ambassadors – to the discourses of politicians, journalists, social scientists and other authorities who address mixing in the context of postmodern theories and a neoliberal revolution in the 1970s and 80s.[25] This could make an important contribution to studies of journalism and geography, but it did not explicitly place the metaphors in the context of writing on colonialism and anti-colonialism or refer to any writing on mixed race that was originally published before 1978.

While using similar metaphors to the ones identified by Mahtani in their writings on mixed-race subjects, some American journalists have developed more historically informed work that glosses the continuities and discontinuities between supposedly new national and neoliberal subjects and the work of a civil rights generation in the 1950s and 60s.  Several biographies of Barack Obama illustrate this trend by depicting Obama as an ambassador who bridges the gap between cultures and generations within America. So, after William Finnegan, a contributor to the New Yorker, expressed his admiration for Obama’s ability to sink some roots into segregated cities in America and shed an identity that seemed ‘too cosmopolitan’ for an (African) American politician, we should not be surprised that David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, cast Obama as a racial bridge between black and white as well as a generational bridge between the Moses generation of civil rights activists and a Joshua generation that followed them.[26] Like Finnegan’s article, Remnick’s biography challenges the overt racism of Americans who refuse to accept the legitimacy of Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate. It also confronts the prejudices of individuals who consider Obama to be ‘less American’ than the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.[27] Yet it pays little attention to the ways in which an American ambassador born in 1961 might engage with the links established between American civil rights campaigners and decolonization movements outside the United States in the 1950s and 60s.   Rather than invoking humanistic language to protect the wretched of the earth, The Bridge repeatedly presents Obama as someone who moves beyond ‘Fanon and other leftists [he read] when he was young’ in order to help individuals pledge allegiance to a new brand of pragmatic, anti-Communist, American liberal nationalism.[28] This liberal ideology continues to view forms of emotion that are palatable to non-black audiences as more ‘rational’ than affective performances that appeal to African American nationalism – for example, two pages after he claimed that Obama worked hard to obtain the ‘emotional connection that marked his performances later on’, Remnick writes that Obama thought ‘the days of nationalism and charismatic racial leadership were outdated and played out.’[29] Most disconcertingly, The Bridge also has a difficult time addressing issues beyond the purview of the American domestic politics – although it is more than 600 pages long, Remnick’s biography cavalierly reports the rest of the world’s interest in Obama’s election in one paragraph, barely mentions Obama’s intellectual engagement with Black freedom fighters in South Africa as a student, and incorporates Nova Scotia into the United States.[30]

Fanon’s Children and the Age of Obama
Although contemporary writers sublimate and marginalize Obama’s connections to events and ideas outside of his native land, his speeches and writings have played with the metaphors of mixing and mixture used by Fanon and other transnational thinkers. He even joked that he wanted to obtain a ‘mutt like me’ from a dog shelter in his first press conference as President-elect.[31] Little more needs to be said about this off-the-cuff remark and a simile that depicts mixed-race individuals as strays in need of a national home. However, Obama’s persistent attempt to link a mixed-race identity to  infantile posturing in his carefully constructed memoir does deserve further elaboration.

In Dreams from my Father:  A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama repeatedly calibrated his identity as a community activist to prominent Black scholars and activists who defined their masculine identity against infantilized mixed-race objects. One section in the memoir is worth repeating at length in order to document how Obama attempts to distance his public persona from a character he calls ‘Joyce’, a ‘good looking woman … with green eyes and honey skin and pouty lips.’

People like Joyce … talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn’t a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be neutral and objective. Only white culture could be nonracial, willing to adopt the occasional exotic into its ranks. Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed, take a survey of the situation and think to ourselves, why should we get lumped in with the losers if we don’t have to?

We become only so grateful to lose ourselves in the crowd, America’s happy, faceless marketplace and we’re never so outraged as when a cabbie drives past us or the woman in the elevator clutches her purse, not so much because we’re bothered by the fact that such indignities are what less fortunate coloreds have to put up with every single day of their lives—although that’s what we tell ourselves—but because we’re wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and speak impeccable English and yet have somehow been mistaken for an ordinary nigger.

Don’t you know who I am? I’m an individual![32]

This extract relies on white/black, winner/loser binaries, and fails to conceptualise how people who deny a singular Black identity might, for example, spend time learning about Chinese culture rather than trying to assimilate into ‘white culture’. It also reveals how Obama quickly moved from denouncing ‘people like Joyce’ to confronting the all-embracing ‘we’ of his guilty thoughts about his youthful (in)actions. Indeed, he points out the inability of his younger self to challenge the romantic racism of white liberals, like his mother, who gleefully consumed representations of childlike blacks; lampoons his decision to join students who cited the sound bites of Frantz Fanon on the fringes of college towns; and, in what now seems like an ironic description of his own Presidential uniform and economic policies, indicts the men in black (Brooks Brothers suits) who attempted to ingratiate themselves into a ‘multicultural marketplace.’[33]

Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent entrepreneur intellectual, further illustrates the connection between Obama’s similes about infantile citizens and the spectre of commodified mixed-race objects. In The Bridge, Gates depicts Obama as ‘a bourgeois nationalist – the kind of person who hangs a Romare Bearden print on the wall and own the complete Coltrane, but doesn’t want to be confined or defined entirely by their blackness.’[34] This ironic description of his friend ties Obama’s self-fashioning to the products he owns and displays at home and seems to reflect the privatizing thrust of neoliberal times. Yet Gates quickly moved from a piquant observer of the domestic dimensions of Obama’s identity to a very public reminder of racial profiling when he was arrested outside of his home by the Cambridge police department.  After some conservative commentators expressed their concerns that the 44th President of the United States would dare to suggest that the police had acted stupidly when they arrested his friend, Obama chose to emphasise rapprochement between Gates and the arresting officer. He did not repeat claims he had made in his memoir that such indignities were common ‘for less fortunate coloreds,’ and careful readers of Fanon’s work should not surprised that the stiff acting of the President, a professor and police officer sharing a drink farcically repeated the tired clichés of television sitcoms. Nor that they tragically repeated forms of liberalism that present kind-hearted whites graciously helping blacks to enter into a bourgeois public sphere defined by its rationality and openness.[35]

Fanon’s influence is evident on a number of intellectuals who critique neoliberal practices that promote displays of interracial friendship as well as liberal ideals about private individuals coming together to form a responsible public.  Some of these intellectuals born circa 1952 (the first publication of Fanon’s Peau noire, masques blancs) and 1961 (the original publication of Fanon’s Les Damnés de la Terre), who question the interpretations of older, liberal scholars as well as the historical consciousness of younger cohort groups may, tentatively, be considered ‘children of Fanon.’  Three prominent members of this cohort are David Theo Goldberg (born in South Africa in 1952), Paul Gilroy (born in England in 1956) and Lewis Gordon (born in Jamaica in 1962).[36]

Goldberg and Gilroy have referred to the role of mixed-race metaphors in their critical interventions about the violence and sly civility of neoliberalism and neo-colonialism. For Goldberg, the project of racial neoliberalism reflects the veiling of state violence in key areas such as housing and security, and his discussion of the 2008 Presidential race deployed mixed-race metaphors in order to talk about mixture as ‘a virtue considered to fuel commercial intercourse’.[37] Gilroy has made similar points about the pitfalls of attempts to incorporate  Obama and other individuals drawn from racial and ethnic minorities into a privileged caste of Americans.[38] To go further,  Gilroy’s analysis of raciology has repeated Fanon’s insights about the perils of childlike mixed-race faces being sold as translators or exotic objects,[39] and his diagnosis of postcolonial melancholia has challenged the idea that the increased visibility of ‘less menacing celebrity “half-castes”’ should be used to measure national development.[40]

While Goldberg and Gilroy have alluded to mixed-race metaphors in their recent work, Lewis Gordon has written more extensively about the attempts to establish ‘critical’ mixed-race studies.  Reflecting on the historical discrimination and colourism in an anti-black world, Gordon has argued that it is understandable – if not morally justifiable – for working-class individuals and darker-skinned individuals to be distrustful of middle-class individuals and lighter-skinned individuals who claim to be progressive.[41] Gordon’s use of slime to describe the aims of a wide variety of mixed-race activists and ‘sensitive’ scholars[42] – who talk politely about racial transcendence while denying the facticity of their privileged position in an anti-black world – is a particularly interesting term since it evokes animalistic behaviour, infantile play, salesmen pitching new, hip commodities for a polyethnic culture. It also offers a transracial, transdisciplinary and transnational engagement with Francophone theory. Aside from adapting Fanon’s critique of European man,[43] Gordon’s analysis of multiracial celebration draws on Sartre’s ontology of slime (a sticky, viscoelastic material that resists shear flow and strain linearly with time when a stress is applied,[44]) and reminds us of Barthes’s famous description of neither-norism (a ‘mythological figure which consists in stating two opposites and balancing the one by the other so as to reject them both … It is on the whole a bourgeois figure, for it relates to a modern form of liberalism … one flees from intolerable reality … one no longer needs to choose, but only to endorse.’[45])

Fanon’s Grandchildren and American Soul Babies
Faced with a context in which high-profile journalists praise Obama’s potential to emancipate himself from ‘America’s race fatigue, the unbearable boredom occasioned by today’s stale politics generally and by the perfunctory theatrics of race especially’,[46] Jared Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes refuses to repress the insights of Fanon’s children. It contends that neoliberal and neoconservative articulations of post-racialism in the United States are not primarily concerned about moving political discussions beyond black performativity. In contrast, they maintain a black other as a means to delegitimise expressions of black anger in the American public sphere, and wonder why ‘people of colour’ would organise politically when they have been offered the opportunity to commodify Black rage and become respectable citizen-consumers in a land of multicultural diversity. In developing this critique, Sexton builds on the ‘perspicacious’ work of Gordon and Fanon, repeatedly cites the work of Goldberg and  Gilroy,[47] and alludes to three of the interlinked types of mixed-race metaphors discussed in this paper. In regards to bestial metaphors, he indicts multiracial advocates who invoke stereotypes about hypermasculine black male rapists – and talk about reproduction rather than sexuality – in the hopes of solidifying a respectable identity in the American public sphere.[48] Explicitly linking infantile and commodified metaphors, he also suggests that many attempts to study or celebrate mixed-race identities in the United States are immature because they lack intellectual rigour and are unable to develop a critical perspective, or a politically progressive position, that can confront the commodification of racialized bodies.[49]

Some reviewers have questioned the tone and methodology of Amalgamation Schemes. For example, Paul Spickard has taken issue with Sexton’s use of extreme multiracial advocates to question the field of mixed-race studies, and positions the author as a combative young thing who doesn’t quite have the maturity to produce a balanced and measured monograph.[50] I do not have the time or space to say more about Spickard’s appeals to judicious academic scholarship, or Sexton’s desire to link the limitations of ‘genteel’ mixed-race scholarship to a ‘liberal’ multiracial political movement and more ‘embarrassing right-wing’ multiracial advocates.[51] My limited goal in this conclusion is to highlight one of the ways in which Sexton’s expansive vision of global African American studies sheds light on the discordant affinities between more insular visions of ethnic American studies and neoliberal multiculturalism:  the tendency to treat multiracial American subjects as more legitimate and universal than transnational multicultural subjects.

In one of his recent essays, Sexton has carefully articulated a vision of global African American studies that is informed by, and distinct to, ‘both black [American] studies and African diaspora studies.’[52] In pursuing such an approach, Sexton can avoid the glibness of some appeals to transnationalism – one thinks, for example, of the claims of Spickard and Daniel that democracy, capitalism, colonialism, misogyny and racism can explain ‘almost everything that has happened on the past four centuries on the North American continent’ without any reference to Canada or Mexico[53] – without shutting himself off from comparative analysis.  Amalgamation Schemes might critique a ‘mixed race studies field’ without any mention of studies that address racial mixture outside of the United States – such as Minelle Mahtani’s research about mixed identities in Canada, Jayne Ifekwunigwe’s work on métissage in the United Kingdom,[54] and Grant Farred’s analysis of coloured identities in South Africa[55] – but his work can be adapted to different scales (for example, his critique of bureaucratic terms such as ‘people of colour’ in the United States,[56] is instructive for scholars who address governmental terms such ‘visible minorities’ and ‘ethnic minorities’ in Canada and the United Kingdom). Moreover, Sexton’s work avoids the parochialism of Mark Anthony Neal’s Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic, which throws the baby of international solidarity out with the bathwater of anti-colonial politics.

Neal’s book does not indulge in the ad hominem attacks against African and Caribbean immigrants to the United States that were a major part of Harold Cruse’s Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.[57] However, it does claim Harold Cruse as a father figure for American soul babies born after the March on Washington in 1963,[58]  and it shares Cruse’s assertive nationalism by sublimating and marginalizing the diasporic consciousness of Fanon’s children. To cite one revealing example, Neal’s analysis of the Chicago-born R Kelly sublimates Gilroy’s reflections on R. Kelly, biopolitics and planetary humanism in Against Race. For while the body of Neal’s text alludes to Gilroy’s theoretical discussion of music, Gilroy’s work is not cited in its endnotes or selected bibliography. The authority of a Chicago-born informant is deemed sufficient to support Neal’s assertions.[59]

Pace Neal, it is possible to read the work of Cruse and American soul babies in relation to transnational, outernational and global histories. Cruse’s insights about mixed-race individuals playing a ‘specific social role … as intermediary in cultural affairs (especially in relation to white liberals who favour this Negro type)’ for example, cannot just be confined to the context of the United States.[60]  Nor can Obama’s carefully constructed civility on the borderlines of Fanon’s children and American soul babies. As the children of Fanon repeatedly remind us, profiteers and schemers who use the term ‘people of colour’ to refer to animalistic, infantile or marketable actions are a global phenomenon. The challenge of transnational studies is not only to discover its mission, but confront those that would betray it.


1. Robert Fulford, “Frantz Fanon: a poisonous thinker who refuses to die,” National Post, February 2, 2002. [↑]

2. See, for example, Nigel Gibson (ed.), Living Fanon: Global Perspectives (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); the special issues of Theory, Culture and Society 28.7-8 (2011); “Panel Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Passing of Frantz Fanon (1925-1961),” Caribbean Philosophical Association Annual Meeting, October 2, 2011; David Marriott, “Whither Fanon?,” Textual Practice 25.1 (2011). [↑]

3. Jodi Melamed, “The Spirit of Neoliberalism: From Racial Liberalism to Neoliberal Multiculturalism,” Social Text 4.89 (2006), 1-24. One also thinks of revealing examples in popular culture such as the revealing scene in The Other Guys (2010), which depicts Derek Jeter as a ‘biracial [American] angel’ who should be protected by governmental agents in contrast to Alex Rodriguez,  an American who part of his childhood in the Dominican Republic, who ‘should have [been] shot’. [↑]

4. See, for example, bell hooks, “Feminism as a persistent critique of history: What’s love got to do with it?” in The Fact of Blackness: Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation, ed. Alan Reed (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1996), 85; Bill Schwarz, “The expansion of England,” Cultural Studies 8:3 (1994), 16; Ato Sekyi-Otu Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1996), 31, 157; George Elliott Clarke, Odysseys Home: Mapping African Canadian Literature (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 12-13. [↑]

5. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 46-7n5. [↑]

6. Ibid., 42. [↑]

7. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1968), 169-178. [↑]

8. See, for example, “The Surrogate,” Curb Your Enthusiasm (2004), episode 7, season 4; “Digital Estate Planning,” Community (2012), episode 20, season 3. [↑]

9. Jin Haritaworn, “Hybrid Border-Crossers? Towards a Radical Socialisation of ‘Mixed Race’,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35.1 (2009), 119. [↑]

10. Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004), 382. [↑]

11. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. [↑]

12. Mary Helen Washington (ed.), Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women, 1860-1960 (New York: Anchor Press, 1987), 160. Emphasis added. [↑]

13. See, for example, James A. Hendrix, My Son Jimi (Seattle: AlJas, 1999); Armond White, “The Pursuit of Crappyness,” 9 July 2008, New York Press; Daniel McNeil, Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs (London: Routledge, 2009). [↑]

14. Harvey Ward, World Survey, Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation, 15 July 1969. [↑]

15. Nick Griffin, British National Party leadership conference, 1 July 2006. [↑]

16. George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” Horizon 13.76 (1946), 252-265. [↑]

17. Brendan O’Neill, “These rioters are not ‘Thatcher’s offspring,” 15 August 2011, Spiked. [↑]

18. Lawrence Grossberg, Cultural Studies in the Future Tense (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010), 141-2.  [↑]

19. Stuart Hall, “The Neoliberal Revolution,” Soundings 48 (2011), 10. There were also a number of discordant affinities between the cultural project of the CPS and the CCCS in relation to the deconstruction of identity and the celebration of difference. The ironies of these appropriations and overlaps were not lost by Hall and other cultural theorists influenced by Marxist humanism when they debated the ‘authoritarian populism’ of Thatcherism with state theorists and political economists. Stuart Hall, “The Great Moving Right Show,” January 1979, Marxism Today; Bob Jessop et al, “Authoritarian Populism, Two Nations, and Thatcherism,” September-October 1984, New Left Review 147;  Stuart Hall, “Authoritarian Populism: A reply to Jessop et al,” May-June 1985, New Left Review 151; Bob Jessop et al, “Thatcherism and the politics of hegemony: a reply to Stuart Hall,” September-October 1985, New Left Review 153; Bob Jessop, “Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Urban Governance: A State-Theoretical Perspective,” Antipode, 34.3 (2002), 452:472. Also see Lawrence Grossberg, “The figure of subalternity and the neoliberal future,” Nepantla 1.1 (2000), 66. [↑]

20. Andrew Gamble, The Free Economy and the Strong State: The Politics of Thatcherism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1988.  [↑]

21. Kobena Mercer, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1994), 77, 83, 260, 289, 305. [↑]

22. Maria Root, Racially Mixed People in America (Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1992), 3; Maria Root, ed., The Multiracial Experience: Racial Borders as the New Frontier (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996) xxvii. [↑]

23. Daniel McNeil, Sex and Race, 16. [↑]

24. Ibid. [↑]

25. Minelle Mahtani, “Mixed Metaphors: Situating Mixed Race Identity,” in Situating ‘Race’ and Racisms in Space, Time and Theory, eds. Jo-Ann Lee and John Lutz (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005), 77-93. For other work that links the study of mixed-race to metaphors of hybridity, empire and nation see Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race (London: Routledge, 1995); Sara Ahmed, “It’s just a sun tan, isn’t it?: Auto-biography as an Identificatory Practice,” in H. Mirza (ed.) Black British Feminism, pp. 153-67. London: Routledge; John Chock Rosa, “’The Coming of the Neo-Hawaiian American Race’: Nationalism and Metaphors of the Melting Pot in Popular Accounts of Mixed-Race Individuals,” in The Sum of Our Parts, eds. Teresa Williams-León and Cynthia Nakashima (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001), 49-56. [↑]

26. William Finnegan, “The Candidate: How the Son of a Kenyan Economist Became an Illinois Everyman,” The New Yorker, May 31 2004. [↑]

27. Nicholas Kristof, “What? Me Biased?” The New York Times, October 29, 2008. [↑]

28. David Remnick, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama (London: Picador, 2010), 431. [↑]

29. Ibid., 283, 285. [↑]

30. Ibid., 33, 108, 525. [↑]

31. Foon Rhee, “Chewing Over Obama’s ‘mutt’ reference,” November 10, 2008, Boston Globe. [↑]

32. Barack Obama, Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (New York: Random House, 2006), 99-100. [↑]

33. Ibid. xv, 100, 124. [↑]

34. Remnick, The Bridge, 525. [↑]

35. Fanon, Black Skin, 127. Also see Benjamin DeMott, The Trouble with Friendship: Why Americans can’t Think Straight about Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); Marcus Wood, The Horrible Gift of Freedom: Atlantic Slavery and the Representation of Emancipation (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010), 29. [↑]

36. All three are well-known academics who are committed to Fanon’s call for mature music that draws people into a public arena and revolutionary consciousness. David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, has worked as a music video director; Paul Gilroy, the Anthony Giddens Professor of Social Theory at the London School of Economics, has been employed as a music journalist; Lewis Gordon, Director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought at Temple University, has performed as a jazz musician. [↑]

38. Gilroy, Darker than Blue: on the moral economies of Black Atlantic culture (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2010), 172-3. [↑]

39. Gilroy, Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000), 21. [↑]

40. Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholia (New York: Colombia University Press, 2005), 128. [↑]

41. Lewis Gordon, “Mixed Race in Light of Whiteness and Shadows of Blackness,” in Lewis Gordon, Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existentialist Thought (London: Routledge, 2000), 112. [↑]

42. Lewis Gordon, “Reply to My Critics,” The C.L.R. James Journal 13. 2 (2008): 304–320. [↑]

43. Gordon, Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: An Essay on Philosophy and the Human Sciences (London: Routledge, 1995). [↑]

44. Gordon, “Mixed Race,” 109; Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (London: Routledge, 1969), 609-10. Also see Sara Ahmed, “Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism.” Borderlands ejournal 3. 2 (2004), 48. [↑]

45. Roland Barthes, Mythologies (New York: Noonday Press, 1972), 153. [↑]

46. George Will, “Misreading Obama’s Identity,” Washington Post,  30 December 2007. [↑]

47. Sexton, Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 10, 16, 26, 41, 51, 54, 99, 232-5, 240, 261, 274-5, 278n2, 287n7. [↑]

48. Ibid., 1, 7, 15, 31, 74, 81, 154, 157-8. [↑]

49. Ibid., 55. [↑]

50. Paul Spickard, “Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism (review),” American Studies 50.1 (2009): 125-127. [↑]

51. Sexton, Amalgamation, 62-3, 82. [↑]

52. Sexton, “The Social Life of Social Death: On Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism,” InTensions 5 (2011), 8. [↑]

53. Paul Spickard and G. Reginald Daniel (eds.), Racial Thinking in the United States: Uncompleted Independence (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), 1. [↑]

54. Jayne Ifekwunigwe, Scattered Belongings: Cultural Paradoxes of Race, Nation, and Gender (London: Routledge, 1998). [↑]

55. Grant Farred, Coloured Literature and Culture in Contemporary South Africa. Boulder: Westview Press, 2000. [↑]

56. Sexton, “People-of-color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery”, Social Text 28.2 (2010), 31-56. [↑]

57. Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia (New York: Verso, 1998), 262-91. [↑]

58. Mark Anthony Neal, Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic, 103.  [↑]

59. Neal, Soul Babies, 17, 197n43.  [↑]

60. Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (New York: Morrow, 1967), 83-4. Also see Daniel McNeil, “Barack Obama and the Bridge-Builders,” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 11.4 (2010), 459-464; “Review of Thomas Sugrue, Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race,” Social Identities 16.6 (2010), 833-836.  [↑]

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Daniel McNeil is the Ida B Wells-Barnett Professor of African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University. His most recent book is Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic: Mulatto Devils and Multiracial Messiahs, which provides a timely rejoinder to academics, artists, journalists and politicians who only use the mixed-race label to depict prophets or delinquents as ‘new’ national icons for the twenty-first century. He is currently writing a book about the provocative, suggestive and explorative work of Black public intellectuals in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
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