Class last week was very helpful. Kelly went right to the crux of my project, the construction of Aafrican Americans as middle class citizens. Since the Civil Rights Movement, but especially since the Reagan administration, the U.S. has undergone a second Reconstruction, a cultural Reconstruction aimed at constructing people of color, especially the traditional ethnic groups of color, as normal Americans, citizens like everyone else, every white one else. Advertising has been central to this process both as a reimagining of African Americans visually as integrated culturally and economically, rather than the Other represented in pre Civil Rights advertising.
These images would no longer do if African Americans were to be successfully integrated into the public culture of the U.S.
Control of image becomes critical. The control of the imagery becomes control of the imaginary. Only middle class, normalcy is acceptable, only politics within a bourgeois democratic discourse will be tolerated, a discourse of equality and freedom, not one of power, independence or revolution. On the heels of a Black Liberation Movement, the redomestication of African American politics required the implimentation of the imaginary of normalcy. This required no conference or conspiracy. The ideology was already extant. Black folks and other people of color simply required an invitation. Advertising works because it invites us to imagine our lives as fulfilled while providing the script for the fantasy, and the tickets for entrance embodied in the commodities through which we purchase membership. Sometimes advertising acts like missionary work.
With Calvin, we overcome our neighborhood, our past (and present) as Other, refusing the temptations of our friends, those idle, young Black men waiting at the stoop, and taking our place as model worker/consumer citizens of the corporate state. Aren’t we special.