Negotiating the masculine: configurations of race and gender in American culture
James Baldwin once described the intertwining lives of Anglo and African in American culture as "a wedding," a metaphor that is at once illuminating and hauntingly inappropriate as a characterization of the long and bloody history of racism and slavery in the New World. While capturing the inextricability of blacks and whites in America, Baldwin's imposition of a gendered, heterosexual paradigm reproduces a larger cultural tendency to read "race" as a replication of the binary structure of sexual difference--masculine/feminine, whole/lack, self/other, man/woman. Such a grafting of sexual difference onto race obfuscates the power relations both within the space of "otherness"--that is, the discrepancies in power between black men and black women--and between black and white men, falsely constructing black men as stand-ins for the feminine. Part of the strategy of American cultural production is just this sleight-of-hand where the masculine "raced" other is engendered in representation, the threat of masculine sameness averted through the replication of a gendered construction. Through this collusion of race and gender structures, black men are reined into the ideological orbit of cultural hegemony, their images intricately tied to the reproduction of the white patriarchal economy.Because the category of race is fragmented by gender--black men gaining access to power via the masculine--and gender is hierarchicalized along racial lines--white men holding racial hegemony over black men--this study investigates the intersection of race and gender in American cultural production by looking, specifically, at the various ways black men are inculcated into the patriarchal economy via the discourse of sexual difference. My intention throughout is to further feminist theory's understanding of the construction and maintenance of patriarchal structures by focusing purposely on areas of cultural power relations that often appear outside the scope of a feminist analysis. Such a study depicts the necessity of feminist investigation into the various structures complicit in the perpetuation of the white patriarchal economy, enabling us to begin to unravel the intricacy of race and gender in American culture.
- English