NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 111

At the root of all this talk is the clear indication that Blackness and racism are historically and inextricably twinned and that, by extension, if the goal is to eradicate racism, the most effective, most desirable means to do so is to eradicate Blackness. This way of thinking holds that Blackness — unlike whiteness — is race; whiteness — unlike Blackness — is the human model, the norm, in effect, the goal against which Blackness must always be seen and always be seen to fall short. The fact of the matter is that this logic, sadly skewed as it is, is nothing new. Reactionary Black folk have historically addressed Blackness as a “condition” to be at best transcended, at another extreme repudiated, at the very least (somehow) remedied. It is a set of stereotypes to confront, deny, disprove, continually engage. Blackness, this way of thinking goes, is in itself a set of limitations to overcome, a clear boundary to cross in order to achieve full humanity, the best examples of which are perceived always to be white. Each generation sets out to define itself by telling a great deal about the social, political, economic and cultural values that shaped and continue to shape it. African American artists, dramatists, composers, poets, writers and intellectuals have generally been at the forefront of shaping the trends and developments that eventually are seen as the major movements in arts and culture. (Politics and the economy remain the bailiwick of whites.) What is interesting about the group of African American visual artists who came on the scene in a big way in the 1990’s, and the small cadre of those curating and writing about their work, is that, armed with minimal information about the generations of artists just prior, they assumed that their consciousness of what they were doing was as new as the work itself. Seeking to escape the demands of the Black Arts Movement and Black Aesthetic rhetoric of the 1970’s, which they saw as limiting, limited and antiquated, and seeking also and especially to touch the hem of the garment of late Neo-Expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat — whose (white establishment-stamped) works currently command upwards of $50 million — they chose the loaded and unfortunate moniker, post-Black. And that, as we used to say, was the start of all that. 109 It was a joke — made both in passing and in poor taste, a joke nonetheless, and nothing more. It gained momentum, however, and suddenly — so it seemed to me — the media and people on the streets were addressing the “controversy” of “post-Blackness.” Much of the later post-racial discussion seemed to revolve around whether the nation’s election and reelection of its first African American president were indicators that racism had been undone forever, or at least for the time being. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE I don’t recall what I was doing the first time I heard the term “post-Black,” but I do recall what I thought.