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Acting White. What’s Feminism and Queer Theory got to do with it?

As someone who often has questions about what it means to be a queer feminist of color surrounded by whiteness, I immediately saw this lecture to be of particular importance. While the very act of having this conversation is more important than anything else, the ways in which he came to describe his ideas on the relationships between the social construction of race and the social construction of gender was really quite illuminating, especially when looking at how the law interacts with these constructions.

The talk was as theoretical as you may have imagined it. This is not to say that it was not accessible and I was really happy to see that he mixed in some eye opening references from pop culture such as a Dave Chappelle”s “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.”

As I understood, Carbado explains this to be the negation of race, whereby the black character has to negotiate the conflict that derives from choosing between the sense of self-identity and the institutional sense of identity. Based of this negotiation the character produces a certain performance which is either true to sense of self or a compromise to the self. He”s talking about race, and in this particular context blackness.

If we look at how this might play out in our varied queer experiences, we”ll find that there”s this similarity with when we come out (save for those of us who are confronted with being most ostensibly the furthest thing from heteronormal). Coming out is a continual thing. You do it over and over again. But take a look at when the choice is made. How do the people around us inform how soon we make this choice? Does our performance change based on context? These are all negotiations of conflict we have within ourselves that deliver a certain performance-making the choice to either shine in our queer bodies or wash out the vibrant, dynamic hues that color our identity.

This talk explored much of what he describes in his soon to be published book, “Acting White” (placeholder title). It is expected to be released this October, so stay tuned.

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