Happy Black History Month: Minorities as a Heuristic


For everyone unfamiliar, a heuristic can be an experience-based technique for problem solving, learning, and discovery that give a solution which is not guaranteed to be optimal.


This past November 6, 2013 I attended an event at the City University of New York’s Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies for a roundtable discussion on Black Queer Diaspora. I thought it would be ultimate in minority topics, next to Asian Queer Diaspora. I have to admit that I was unsure what would actually be discusses at the event. The event was a critique of Jafari Allen's new book and mostly about the "connectivity" of the black queer diaspora to other cultural genres of the world.

In a special issue of GLQ, Jafari Allen beckoned us to see that “Black/queer/diaspora is an organic project of multivalent and multiscalar reclamation, revisioning, and futurity (yes, all at once).” This event brings together preeminent writers and thinkers at the forefront of engaging with this work. Issue editor Jafari Allen (Yale) and contributor Vanessa Agard-Jones (Columbia) present research from their new projects emerging from the conversations of the special issue. Robert Reid-Pharr (CUNY Graduate Center), and Rosamond S. King (Brooklyn College) will offer responses to this new work, informed by their own scholarship and research interests. Collectively, they will each present new research that considers and expands the methodological and conceptual inquiries grounding the issue.

After the presentation of Allen’s new book project Black/Queer/Diaspora and a Agard-Jones’s beyond fascinating paper What the Sands Remember (which could suggest radical political warfare on ethnic and sexual minorities via unethical bio & chemical policy. READ IT!) their critiques made the event much more compelling. Rosemond King’s poetry was beautifully easy yet provocative, although I’m not sure she’d agree with my choice of language. But the kicker was Dr Robert Reid-Pharr’s critique of Allen & Agard-Jone’s work. He said

Black Queer Diaspora should be presented as a heuristic

The way he used it, meant that it “can” go away. I immediately thought about my own work and how colleagues, peers, critiques, and I regularly explore the ends of things to push understanding beyond our understanding from the day-to-day lives we lead. Of course it's an effort to understand the exponential growth potential of our lives. I’ve never seen so many minorities clash. %0 Shades of Black regularly employes the clashing of many minorities as we individuals recognize so many sub-groups in our own minority.

If you are still reading, please indulge my logic of Reid-Pharr's comment briefly: Think of "minorities" as "problems" to potentially be "solved" with less-than optimal outcomes; or rather a diluted existence into some broader culture (majority). Anthropological history of culture systems and even physics system suggest that Reid-Pharr is on to something. A minority that is tolerated and accepted should eventually dilute into the norms of the broader culture.

Even further and most interesting to me as a socialized African American, although my genome sequence reads quite different, was question posed from the audience by a woman asking Jafari Allan if he agreed with Rober Reid-Pharr’s comment about heuristics. Allen agreed that “Queer” could go away, as he elaborated about his and the academy’s difficulty with the term. He continued to say that “Black” could never go away. After he laughed at the the statement he switched subjects.

To this point I haven’t dealt with Afro-futurism mainly because it is not an interest of mine, even after the request of editors at organizations like Humanity+ & IEET. Having stated that, the writings and comments around Afro-futurism concern me simply because I am classified as black. Phenomenologically I am inclined to reject Allen’s suggestion that “Black” could never dilute, especially while considering “Queer” to have the potential to do so. While we are still early in the commencement of our technological evolution it is possible to consider the potential of ethnic ranks pervading the humanoid population. Simply, human selection aside from that of natural selection is allowing each individual in the human-kind race to design themselves in the favor of their own ambitions. I’m compelled to think of the green-honed four-toed tri-breasted Spanish-speaking avatars designed in SecondLife and those in real life. If I extrapolate the cultural changes that I see in 2014, it seems that our population will be a large sea of minorities. From a socio-cultural standpoint, I think that Anthropologists can find and will continue to find remnants of tolerance leading to the acceptance from individuals living OUT... Those transparent lifestyles dilute the majority and minority normative: exposing everyone as an individual participating in a group.



writer, cultural critic, special contributor to 50 Shades of Black

Posted on January 31, 2014 and filed under art, blog, education, Identity, LGBT, sexuality.