Reckoning with Reconciliation: A Grammar of Whiteness
Reconciliation language, however well-intentioned, is neither innocent nor innocuous. In this dissertation, I argue that reconciliation is part of a grammar of whiteness. This word, particularly when spoken and enacted by White people, works violence upon Black life. I argue that reconciliation grammar is a performance of whiteness that banks on racial difference properly managed to assuage White anxiety of otherness. This performance is explored in three acts. The first act concerns the theo-economics of reconciliation accounting and its afterlife in Luca Pacioli. The second act concerns the theo-patriarchy of Lethal Weapon fantasies of racial reconciliation that is real if men are really men, and if the explosions of violence upon muscular White male flesh look real enough. The final act concerns the theo-technology of the human found in White feminist theological writings of Letty Russell, revealing a reconciling humanism that renders difference an “ism” to be overcome by Jesus’ singular humanity. Each of these acts works violence upon Black life in different, and yet intersecting ways. Each of these acts performs reconciliation in such a way that inequitable power relationships result. Reckoning with reconciliation entails a reckoning not only with the words White people use, but also with the ways those words have a material effect on relationships, imaginations, and bodies. I show how reconciliation as a grammar of whiteness has been performed on Black life to account for it as fungible and expendable, to profit from a Black Madonna attending a manly White hero Jesus, and to render the Black woman as plastic material from which any manner of White theologies and ontologies might be built. I then point toward the excess and otherwise life that can never fully be consumed by reconciliation grammar; I argue for the liberative possibilities of life unreconciled.
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