Saturday, February 9, 2013

Michael P. Jeffries's "Paint the White House Black"

Michael P. Jeffries is assistant professor of American studies at Wellesley College. His first book is Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Paint the White House Black is a great place to start. The book is about the inadequacy of racial language and the power of race as a force that takes over the meaning of other words and ideas. The only way to get past all the loudness and silence of race is to make sure we are constantly thinking about race in concert with other discourses, like class and gender. On page 99, I point out that Obama's landmark speech on race was given during what was called a "postracial" campaign. Think about how crazy this is - the language of race is so insufficient and misleading that a speech on the topic of race is trumpeted as an example of "postracialism." That chapter goes to unpack the interplay of race and class as the driving factors behind the myth of postracialism and the changing performances of prominent black politicians. Technological changes are indispensable to this story, as we're living in an age where the old means of organizing and communicating have undone previous conceptions of racial safety and political separatism.

The rest of Paint the White House Black takes a similar approach, looking at the pitfalls and misunderstandings that grow from racial silence and racial loudness, and correcting them with attention to what academics call "intersectionality" - race in combination with other ideas. The book is not a pseudo-analysis of Obama's psyche or a dissection of his every word and move. It's about using the president as a point of departure and common ground, because his rise is an experience we all witnessed and shared in.
Learn more about Paint the White House Black at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Thug Life.

--Marshal Zeringue