What happens to a country that was built on race when the boundaries of black and white have started to fade? Not only is the literal face of America changing where white will no longer be the majority, but the belief in the firmness of these categories and the boundaries that have been drawn is also disintegrating.
In a nuanced reading of culture in a post Obama America, this book asks what will become of the racial categories of black and white in an increasingly multi-ethnic, racially ambiguous, and culturally fluid country. Through readings of sites of cultural friction such as the media frenzy around ‘transracial’ Rachel Dolezal, the new popularity of racially ambiguous dolls, and the confusion over Obama’s race, Fading Out Black and White explores the contemporary construction of race.
This insightful, provocative glimpse at identity formation in the US reviews the new frontier of race and looks back at the archaism of the one-drop rule that is unique to America.
Acknowledgments / List of Illustrations / Preface / Introduction / Overview of the book / Terminology / Chapter 1: Tracing Race: A tour of the Racial Binary / Chapter 2: The Trial of Rachel Dolezal: The First Transracial / Chapter 3: Obama as Racial Rorschach: The First Blank President / Chapter 4: Casting Color: Black Barbie and the Black Doll as Racial Barometer / Chapter 5: Really Black: Black-ish and the Black Sitcom as Racial Barometer / Chapter 6: Talking about Race: Black, White and Mixed Focus Groups / Coda / Appendix / Bibliography
Mapping and re-mapping the cultural geography of race and identity are some of the critical, yet most complex endeavors of our time. Kingstone gives us the tools to navigate this thorny area across both recent history and contemporary culture. It is a forensically crafted masterclass of clarity - essential reading for anyone who is as confused as I am.
Beautifully written, compellingly argued, and exceptionally well-structured. Kingstone frames her richly illuminating, vital and groundbreaking questions in wonderfully theoretically incisive ways by asking, “what do our reactions and changing representations of black and white say about either our shifting perceptions or the firmness of racial categories?”
Lisa Kingstone’s book challenges people on both sides who are entrenched and invested in the traditional binary of race. She unpacks the concept and explores the exemplars of the moment – Rachel Dolezal and President Obama – and ongoing cultural targets of analysis like children’s dolls and popular media. In her original research using focus groups, she helps us see cracks in the system and how far we have to go if we have any hope to unleash human richness, complexity, and ambiguity beyond binary.
Cultural narratives around the black/white binary in America are changing. Lisa Kingstone takes different kinds of representation, including the response to Rachel Dolezal’s racial construction, to explore the tensions between persistent essentialism and notions of emerging racial fluidity. To this complex territory, she brings analytical acuity and insight in this highly readable and beautifully written book. It will be widely read.
Lisa Simone Kingstone is Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of International Development at King’s College London. She has a BA from Barnard College, an MA from Columbia University, and a PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in English Literature. Before coming to King’s, she taught English Literature at the University of Connecticiut and worked as a professional journalist. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications.