Quest for blackness: writing against white visioning and black self-destruction
With a focus on multiracial perspectives on race, region, and sexuality, Quest for Blackness interrogates the efforts of diverse black subjects to transcend the objectifying limits of the white gaze and the effects of internalized hatred and destructiveness. To clarify the tenuous shift from object to subject, the first two chapters of this dissertation examine the formation of African American subjectivity within the prism of the white gaze, as it takes shape in novels by Eudora Welty, Lewis Nordan, Toni Morrison, and Bebe Moore Campbell. The following chapters probe the pernicious effects on black psyches that develop when African Americans unwittingly internalize any part of the white gaze. Tackling the controversial discourse that comedian Bill Cosby re-ignited with his comments in 2004 on the responsibilities of the black poor in improving their own lives, Quest for Blackness engages fully in the debate that erupted after Cosby's speech. Taking a stand, alongside other African American voices in literature, politics, and social activism, this study not only recognizes the interrelated issue of white racism and economic inequality but also calls for greater black accountability in addressing the pathologies that affect black communities. In airing dirty laundry, African Americans only strengthen their pursuit of equality and lasting, meaningful agency, a point that Z Z Packer, Alice Walker, and others powerfully demonstrate in their fiction.