Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial

Transcending Blackness: From the New Millennium Mulatta to the Exceptional Multiracial

Duke University Press
November 2012
256 pages
20 photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5277-8
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-5292-1

Ralina L. Joseph, Associate Professor of Communication
University of Washington

Representations of multiracial Americans, especially those with one black and one white parent, appear everywhere in contemporary culture, from reality shows to presidential politics. Some depict multiracial individuals as being mired in painful confusion; others equate them with progress, as the embodiment of a postracial utopia. In Transcending Blackness, Ralina L. Joseph critiques both depictions as being rooted in—and still defined by—the racist notion that Blackness is a deficit that must be overcome.

Analyzing emblematic representations of multiracial figures in popular culture—Jennifer Beals’s character in the The L Word; the protagonist in Danny Senza’s novel, Caucasia; the title character in the independent film, Mixing Nia; and contestants in a controversial episode of the reality show, America’s Next Top Model, who had to “switch ethnicities” for a photo shoot—Joseph identifies the persistance of two widespread stereotypes about mixed-race African Americans: “new millennium mulattas” and “exceptional multiracials.” The former inscribes the multiracial African American as a tragic figure whose Blackness predestines them for misfortune; the latter rewards mixed-race African Americans with success for erasing their Blackness. Addressing questions of authenticity, sexuality, and privilege, Transcending Blackness refutes that idea that in American society, race no longer matters.

Table of Contents

  • Preface. From Biracial to Multiracial to Mixed-Race to Critical Mixed-Race Studies
  • Introduction. Reading Mixed-Race African American Representations in the New Millennium
  • Part I: The New Millennium Mulatta
    • 1. The Bad Race Girl: Jennifer Beals on The L Word, the Race Card, and the Punishment of Mixed-Race Blackness
    • 2. The Sad Race Girl: Passing and the New Millennium Mulatta in Danzy Senna’s Caucasia
  • Part II: The Exceptional Multiracial
    • 3. Transitioning to the Exceptional Multiracial: Escaping Tragedy through Black Transcendence in Mixing Nia
    • 4. Recursive Racial Transformation: Selling the Exceptional Multiracial on America’s Next Top Model
  • Conclusion. Racist Jokes and the Exceptional Multiracial, or Why Transcending Blackness Is a Terrible Proposition
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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