The Great White Hope: Black Albinism and the Deposing of the White Subject in John Edgar Wideman’s Sent For You Yesterday

Vida A. Robertson


John Edgar Wideman cleverly liberates the African American community from the destructive pretense of racial essentialism by employing the racial ambiguity of the albinic body. In his novel Sent For You Yesterday(1983), Wideman portrays Brother Tate, a black albinic character, as both a catalyst for challenging the limitations and inconsistency of our Western mythos of identity and a medium for preserving African American culture. Hecritiques Western culture’s grand racial classification in that he interrogates the supposition that race is a natural and indisputable aspect of the human condition. The Darwinian hierarchy through which race is expressed inherently privileges one expression of humanity (the original white subject) over the implied inferiority of allothers. By positioning the albinic body as the a priori condition of the human condition, Wideman is able to denaturalize the racial inferiority of blackness and discredit the notion of white superiority. With this, the reputed racial whiteness of the “original man” is discardedand supplanted by the fluidly of the albinic body. Asa racially indeterminate character, Brother Tate offers an unmediated investigation into the black condition without the convoluted misrepresentations of blacknessmanufactured to subjugate, coerce, distort, and censure the black community for generations.

Key words: Albinism (albino); Race; Blackness;Community; John Edgar Wideman


Albinism (albino); Race; Blackness; Community; John Edgar Wideman


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