Abstract

Some philosophical work reads the black body as constructed by white consciousness or white perceptions; Coates’s book indicates, to the contrary, that violence against the black body and constant threats to black embodiment ground and make possible particular ideations of race, concepts of racial justice that stem from it, and (white) American self-concepts—what Coates calls The Dream. Coates takes an implicitly anti-Hegelian stance against any spirit or history that might redeem African Americans and affirms the black body as the grounding of black experience. Parallel to the world-creating power of repeated speech-acts, bodily violence is also world creating. Although ultimately material treatment of bodies and their conceptual signification are mutually reinforcing, this reversal of etiology in Coates’ book is significant because it signals a material foundation to concepts of race and to solutions to racial injustices. Only through the end of violence to the black body will white Americans change their ideals and values and achieve racial justice—if at all.