Critical Rhetorics of Race

Critical Rhetorics of Race

Michael G. Lacy
Kent A. Ono
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Critical Rhetorics of Race
    Book Description:

    According to many pundits and cultural commentators, the U.S. is enjoying a post-racial age, thanks in part to Barack Obama's rise to the presidency. This high gloss of optimism fails, however, to recognize that racism remains ever present and alive, spread by channels of media and circulated even in colloquial speech in ways that can be difficult to analyze. In this groundbreaking collection edited by Michael G. Lacy and Kent A. Ono, scholars seek to examine this complicated and contradictory terrain while moving the field of communication in a more intellectually productive direction. An outstanding group of contributors from a range of academic backgrounds challenges traditional definitions and applications of rhetoric. From the troubling media representations of black looters after Hurricane Katrina and rhetoric in news coverage about the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres to cinematic representations of race in Crash, Blood Diamond, and Quentin Tarantino's films, these essays reveal complex intersections and constructions of racialized bodies and discourses, critiquing race in innovative and exciting ways. Critical Rhetorics of Race seeks not only to understand and navigate a world fraught with racism, but to change it, one word at a time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6529-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Raymie E. McKerrow

    Critical Rhetorics of Raceadvances our understanding of the ever-present nature of racism, whether in its malevolent overt expression, or in its more insidious covert guise, often masquerading via claims of its absence. Taking a stand against racism, as these chapters do, requires a clear understanding of its presence within culture. In establishing its presence, the chapters offer a thematic unity while examining the effectivity of racism within and across divergent arenas. As a consequence, they challenge the grounds for claiming we are in a post-racism era.

    Considered collectively, the chapters evince a clear understanding of what it means to the...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Michael G. Lacy and Kent A. Ono

    Contemporary U.S. media culture represents race in ambivalent, contradictory, and paradoxical ways. Media tell us that the United States is apost-racialsociety, in which race and racism are passé relics of a bygone era. Yet, those same media bombard us daily with spectacles of racial violence and disturbing racist images that serve as evidence that race and racism are alive and well in the United States. Witness the euphoria and great ballyhoo about a “post-race” era ushered in by the 2008 presidential election and inauguration of America’s first “black” president, Barack Obama. Recurring media storylines described Obama as a...

  6. PART I: Racialized Masculinities
    • 1 Apocalypse: The Media’s Framing of Black Looters, Shooters, and Brutes in Hurricane Katrina’s Aftermath
      (pp. 21-46)
      Michael G. Lacy and Kathleen C. Haspel

      In late August 2005, the United States was exposed. Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and became the most lethal and destructive hurricane in U.S. history,¹ causing 1,836 deaths, destroying 300,000 homes,² and costing $150 billion in damages across three states.³ Media coverage of the storm’s aftermath was marked by crime news reports that New Orleans had descended into chaos, anarchy, and lawlessness. However, further investigation revealed that almost all news media reports of looting, shooting, rapes, murders, and mayhem were unsubstantiated, exaggerated, or false.⁴ Federal and state government officials now believe that the erroneous news reports “slowed the response...

    • 2 Tales of Tragedy: Strategic Rhetoric in News Coverage of the Columbine and Virginia Tech Massacres
      (pp. 47-64)
      Cynthia Willis-Chun

      School shootings have become an all-too-familiar part of the U.S. mediascape. The news breaks slowly at first, with tense reports of violence on campus and assurances that more information will be forthcoming. As details emerge, the number of victims is released, the perpetrators are identified, and media then grapple with the complex task of making sense of what seem to be senseless acts of violence. The discourse that follows such incidents is also fairly predictable: age-old debates around gun control are revived, concerns about young men in crisis are aired, and questions about prevention, mental health, and media influence come...

    • 3 N-word vs. F-word, Black vs. Gay: Uncovering Pendejo Games to Recover Intersections
      (pp. 65-78)
      Catherine R. Squireso

      A continuing concern for scholars is whether dominant news media provide adequate frameworks to understand marginalized groups’ lived experiences and political interests. Dominant news frames typically reduce marginalized groups’ political interests to a zero-sum game, often pitting groups against each other.¹ For example, following the 2008 passage of California Proposition 8 (an anti–gay marriage ballot initiative), mainstream media headlines declared that Blacks and gays² were at war. Some exit polls showed that 70 percent of Black voters backed the ballot measure.³ Further investigations debunked these reports,⁴ but the initial news reports framed marginalized groups in antagonistic terms, obscuring the...

  7. PART II: Whiteness
    • 4 Quentin Tarantino in Black and White
      (pp. 81-97)
      Sean Tierney

      Director Quentin Tarantino’s first film,Reservoir Dogs, was released by Miramax in 1992. His 1994 filmPulp Fictionbrought Tarantino mainstream success. In 1997, he releasedJackie Brown,starring former laxploitation actress Pam Grier.Kill Bill Vols.1 and 2 were released in 2003 and 2004.Death Proofwas Tarantino’s half of 2007’sGrindhouse,a double-feature he shared with Robert Rodriguez. Collectively, his films have earned US $859 million worldwide.¹

      Tarantino’s visibility in the pop culture pantheon, combined with his outspokenness, make him a public figure of note; his films, his boundless energy in promoting himself and his work, and...

    • 5 Patrolling National Identity, Masking White Supremacy: The Minuteman Project
      (pp. 98-116)
      Michelle A. Holling

      Efforts at both presidential and congressional levels to strengthen national security by mending “broken” borders and passing immigration reform legislation have advanced with varying degrees of success following the September 11 tragedy. Efforts at the federal level have included President Bush’s failed “guest worker” program, a proposed but defeated House Bill 4437 (the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005), and the passage of House Bill 418 (the Real ID Act of 2005).¹ At the state level, in 2004 Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote or applying for public benefits....

    • 6 Control, Discipline, and Punish: Black Masculinity and (In)visible Whiteness in the NBA
      (pp. 117-136)
      Rachel Alicia Griffin and Bernadette Marie Calafell

      In the United States, numerous media headlines have been dedicated to highprofile cases about race and racism in sport.¹ The most notorious incidents include Al Campanis of the Dodgers, Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder of CBS, Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry, Don Imus and the Rutgers’s University women’s basketball team, head coaches Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy going to Super Bowl 41, and most recently, Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman’s comments on Tiger Woods. While these cases dominated the headlines, they gave visibility to issues of race, power, privilege, and voice in sport.² Sport is inextricably linked with contemporary struggles...

  8. PART III: Vernacular Resistances
    • 7 Declarations of Independence: African American Abolitionists and the Struggle for Racial and Rhetorical Self-Determination
      (pp. 139-158)
      Jacqueline Bacon

      By the late 1830s, many African American abolitionists began publicly expressing a desire for independence from white antislavery leaders with whom they had previously collaborated. In powerful statements declaring their desire for self-determination, they argued that their white colleagues’ attempts to control and restrict their rhetoric and activism were offensive and oppressive. In doing so, they critiqued white abolitionist leaders’ racism, affirmed African Americans’ right to create arguments on their own terms, and uncovered the history of black rhetorical activism that gave them empowering precedent for their efforts. These declarations challenged the established power relationships within the abolition movement, enabled...

    • 8 Transgressive Rhetoric in Deliberative Democracy: The Black Press
      (pp. 159-177)
      Michael Huspek

      Central to deliberative democracy is the ideal of communicative equality, whereby all prospective participants, including historically marginalized people, are guaranteed a level playing field to exercise their rights to propose, question, and critique courses of collective action and to have their expressed ideas recognized and engaged by others, including dominant group members.¹ This ideal improves the quality of political life for all: it enables historically marginalized groups to exert influence within the political order, as their arguments are heard and assessed on their own merits; and it broadens opportunities for genuine dialogue and informed collective action among all sectors of...

    • 9 Bling Fling: Commodity Consumption and the Politics of the “Post-Racial”
      (pp. 178-194)
      Roopali Mukherjee

      We have entered the “post-racial” era, some suggest, a historical moment in which neither cultural practices nor political solidarities cohere predictably along racial lines. The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, we are told, have bridged historical divides, bringing us closer than ever to a multicultural promised land of equal opportunity and racial equity. The remarkable diversity of civil rights coalitions that radically transformed historical forces of injustice have done their work, these voices insist: it is best we let them wither.

      The civil rights struggles have indeed redrawn the American cultural landscape, and they delivered unprecedented privileges of...

  9. PART IV: Racialized Complexities and Neocolonialism
    • 10 The Rhythm of Ambition: Power Temporalities and the Production of the Call Center Agent in Documentary Film and Reality Television
      (pp. 197-213)
      Aimee Carrillo Rowe, Sheena Malhotra and Kimberlee Pérez

      “Welcome to customer care,” “Welcome to customer care,” Indian call center agents sound out each syllable, carefully articulating their professional U.S. American accents to greet their phone customers. The PBS WideAngle film, 1-800-INDIA,¹ introduces the Western viewer, perhaps for the first time through a visual medium, to the Indian worker at the other end of the line. The verbal “Welcome” (overlayed by a disembodied voice-over) is accompanied by a barrage of disparate images: headphone-wearing Indian agents sitting in sleek office cubicles nodding while conversing; cycle-rickshaw drivers, pedestrians, scooter riders, vendors all peopling a crowded, narrow street market; women in brightly...

    • 11 Inscribing Racial Bodies and Relieving Responsibility: Examining Racial Politics in Crash
      (pp. 214-232)
      Jamie Moshin and Ronald L. Jackson II

      Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign marked an immense cultural shift in the United States. For the first time, an African American candidate had a truly legitimate shot at the top office, and won. For many, Obama’s achievement was indicative of even more: not only had American voters put aside age-old hatreds resulting from real inequalities when they entered the ballot booth, but they also had demonstrated what many consider to be true today—that race does not matter and that we now live in a

      “post-race” era. Of course, we find it shocking that anyone would proclaim we are living...

    • 12 Cinematic Representation and Cultural Critique: The Deracialization and Denationalization of the African Conflict Diamond Crises in Zwick’s Blood Diamond
      (pp. 233-246)
      Marouf Hasian Jr., Carol W. Anderson and Rulon Wood

      On first impression, it seems unfair to complain about some of the local micropolitics that can be linked to various cultural or economic facets of Western filmmaking that tries to render visible “curses”² that are sometimes associated with regional “resource wars.”³ After all, doesn’t Ed Zwick, the director of the filmBlood Diamond, deserve credit for enlightening the world about the horrors of the West African “conflict” diamond trades that ravaged the lives of millions during the 1990s?

      In this chapter, we contend thatZwick,Leonardo DiCaprio, and others involved in the filming ofBlood Diamondshould be credited with...

    • 13 Abstracting and De-Racializing Diversity: The Articulation of Diversity in the Post-Race Era
      (pp. 247-264)
      Rona Tamiko Halualani

      “Centerville” can be one of many towns across the United States, a place that was once historically White and racially/ethnically homogenous and is now thriving with an influx of cultural groups. The Census 2000 figures show that demographic changes have instead occurred. Compared to 20 years ago, there are more racial, ethnic, and immigrant residents living in “Centerville” than ever before. Census projections predict even more dramatic shifts for the future: the percent-age of Latinos and Asians will increase three-fold in that area. There seems to be little doubt that we are witnessing a groundbreaking intercultural transformation of the U.S....

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-296)
  11. About the Contributors
    (pp. 297-302)
  12. Index
    (pp. 303-314)