Black Double-Consciousness and White Double Takes

Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series (BRWT)


When the video-taped beating of Rodney King by 21 officers of the law in California was shown on newscasts around the country in the days following that March 1, 1991 debacle, a private transcript of white America was suddenly rendered public. Racialization was graphically displayed in one of its most virulent forms. An African American male body was “made black” in the action of 56 baton blows that spoke volumes in a spectacle almost devoid of speech. In many respects, the act was archetypal. White paranoia could be observed, freeze-frame by freeze-frame, creating its fantastic other. In an astonishing displacement of aggression, armed white authority recast a supine, elbow-in-the-air-palm-turned-outwards-to-deflect-the-blows, dark body as “bestial,” a “gorilla in the mist.” In the same instant and action, it postured itself as “imperiled,” supposedly under threat of the terror that, in fact, it had itself authored. Here for all to see was American order producing its necessary criminal in the very act of policing. Arguably, the excess of that moment remains unassimilated in the country at large. Its overdetermination as a moment when many discourses, many histories, many institutional powers, and many cultural processes fused violently together became clear only in its explosive aftermath: the social “fission” of South Central, Los Angeles from April 30 through May 3, 1992.


White Supremacy Dark Body Black Folk African American Experience Private Transcript 
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© James W. Perkinson 2004

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