If President Barack Obama failed to fully achieve our “hope” for a post-racial future, President Donald Trump’s “blame on both sides” dog-whistling has revealed the dangers of this color-blindness. Since the Black Power movement declined in the 1980s, the United States has been living in what Michelle Alexander calls an "Age of Colorblindness." Passage of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988 marked a major event in our own unique history of racial colorblindness. In this course, we will collect, compare, and analyze examples of North American visual culture across this thirty-year history to ask: What does racial representation look like in an era that claimed to be “color blind”? What forms of media have driven or expressed these post-racial desires and erasures? What kinds of analytical postures and methodologies enable us to see, as Christina Sharpe writes, “in excess of what is caught in the frame”? Primary sources will include translated excerpts of Pierre Vallières’s Nègres blancs d’Amérique; speeches by Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau denying Canada’s history of colonialism; advertisements from Nancy Reagan's “Just Say No” campaign; James Cameron's film Avatar (2009); music videos by Michael Jackson, Eminem, and Childish Gambino; art by Shepard Fairy, Kehinde Wiley, Mike Kelley, Adrian Piper, and Parker Bright, along with other textual and visual media. Secondary sources will include theory and history from Rinaldo Walcott, Christina Sharpe, Fred Moten, Mary Dudziak, and Elizabeth Povinelli, among others.
- Teacher: Katherine Thorsteinson