Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Société post-raciale? "C'est stupide."

Back in November, Colson Whitehead and Percival Everett, among other literary artists, participated in Les Belles Étrangères, a festival in France that highlighted the works of American writers whose works had recently been translated into French.

During his time there, Whitehead was interviewed for a French arts and culture publication, Toward the end of the interview, he was asked whether he thought we were entering a "post race" period with the election of Barack Obama.

Whitehead is quoted as responding that only an "idiot" would think we are living in "une société post-raciale" and asks whether anyone really thinks racism has magically vanished from the surface of the Earth. If so, he concludes, "C'est stupide."

Here in the States, Whitehead's work is labeled as "post race" in some quarters. Most notably perhaps, Toure opens his review of Sag Harbor in the Times announcing that "Now that we’ve got a post-black president, all the rest of the post-blacks can be unapologetic as we reshape the iconography of blackness." But given Whitehead's status as one of the most popular black writers of literary fiction during this contemporary era, I have to admit I'm pleased that he continually rejects the post race designation in terms that are straightforward and comical.

And speaking of race and representation, the interview from displays a cover of one of Whitehead's novels. The American edition of Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt, as you'll note from the image on the left above, downplays the idea of race, especially when we consider how pronounced race is on the cover of the French version known as Apex.

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