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Jared Sexton

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Race, Sexuality, and Political Struggle: Reading Soul on Ice

Sexton argues that an enduring challenge of resisting state violence is liberating black radicalism from its historical entanglements with various forms of sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny, from its frequent reliance on the strictures of homophobia and heteronormativity, and from its highly ambivalent and deeply problematic relation to the sexual color line. In each respect, the figure of Eldridge Cleaver presents a highly instructive case in point, not for the exemplary success of the story, but for the extremity and wildness of its failures. He examines Cleaver’s claim in Soul on Ice to sexual terror on white women as a political means to reclaim black freedom and agency within a historical record abundant with white sexual terror on black women and men alike. Sexton sees an important lesson in the complicated logic of this connection between certain traditions of black liberation struggle and their often conservative, sometimes-reactionary political commitments regarding the intersections of race and sexuality. Such a connection is historical and contingent and not inherent or structural, that is, it is capable of being undone provided it is carefully worked through.

homophobia, rape, race, sexuality, politics, personal relationships, literary criticism, Cleaver, Eldridge

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 30, No. 2 (2003): 28-41