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Postracial ResistanceBlack Women, Media, and the Uses of Strategic Ambiguity$
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Ralina L. Joseph

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479862825

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479862825.001.0001

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“I Just Wanted a World That Looked Like the One I Know”

“I Just Wanted a World That Looked Like the One I Know”

The Strategically Ambiguous Respectability of a Black Woman Showrunner

(p.83) 3 “I Just Wanted a World That Looked Like the One I Know”
Postracial Resistance

Ralina L. Joseph

NYU Press

Chapter 3 examines showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ twenty-first century Black respectability politics through the form of strategic ambiguity. Joseph traces Rhimes’ performance of strategic ambiguity first in the pre-Obama era when she stuck to a script of colorblindness, and a second in the #BlackLivesMatter moment when she called out racialized sexism and redefined Black female respectability. In the shift from the pre-Obama era to the #BlackLivesMatter era, this chapter asks: how did Rhimes’ careful negotiation of the press demonstrate that, in the former moment, to be a respectable Black woman was to perform strategic ambiguity, or not speak frankly about race, while in the latter, respectable Black women could and must engage in racialized self-expression, and redefine the bounds of respectability?

Keywords:   Shonda, Rhimes, Black, Women, Postracial, Postfeminist, Media, Resistance, Gender, race

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