The expression of fragility has always been a difficult and complex matter for African Americans, for the discourse of mainstream media is set up to both sustain and misrecognize their fragility . Even though the black public sphere split off from the dominant public sphere after the Civil War to enable distinctive forms of expression, the “practiced habits” of which Coates speaks continued working within the structures of the dominant discourse. My essay will analyze the structure of America’s indifference to fragility in six parts. In the first section, I will introduce a normative problematic that can track how the hegemonic public sphere uses the rhetoric of formal equality to subordinate and silence African Americans speech, while also opening a space for black speech to be heard rather than dismissed. Sections two and three examine the historical separation of the black public sphere from the dominant public sphere, tracing the silencing structures that haunt us today back to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954, for this “progressive” decision provided a template for what can be said and cannot be said. The fourth section analyzes how Ralph Ellison thematizes and revises the encounter between the black and dominant public spheres. Sections five and six discuss the ways in which Ta-Nehisi Coates exposes the contemporary forms of these discursive structures that undermine progress toward equality and the resistance to such exposure in the media.
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Published in Journal of American Studies in Italy, ed. Chiara Patrici and Pilar Martinez Benedi, 2022.
© Meili Steele, 2022.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Steele, M. (2022). The discourse of Black fragility in a divided public sphere. JAm It! (Journal of American Studies in Italy). https://doi.org/10.13135/2612-5641/6660