Politics, Aethetics, and the King Family
Even more exciting, there's a new post on Neal's blog by Erica Edwards, my colleague and friend from Spelman and Duke, "Homophobia and The Civil Rights Movement? MLK Jr's Legacy is Up for Grabs". Edwards discusses the “Reigniting the Legacy” march for a ban against same-sex marriage, which utilized the King legacy and was supported by Bernice King. Her work questions the idea of charisma as a political tool and her discussion of this case argues that the "charismatic political aesthetic" is used to align black religious subjects and black masculine subjects with the political agendas of the right. The whole essay is worth the read, but I find the last paragraph gets to the point particularly well:
What intrigues me about this essay and makes me excited to see the dissertation turned into a book is this idea of the charismatic aesthetic. Does she coin the term? I don't know, but I'll ask her. What I like about it as that it makes me think about the crafting of political persona, the values we have for style, and how style naturalizes arguments. I'll have more to say about this later, but I'd love to hear what others think.
"A strange mixture of funeral procession, soldier march, Olympic opening ceremony, worship service and political rally, the “Reigniting the Legacy” march placed charismatic authority on center stage. It showed how charismatic leadership, often masking itself as a ‘natural’ expression of black religiosity and political consciousness, actually produces itself through self-conscious performances of authority that are tied to a narrow, patriarchal and homophobic conception of manhood. The question, perhaps, for those of us interested in engaging the church in a radical critique of heteronormative masculinity is: is charismatic authority an acceptable means or the only basis for the creation of an egalitarian religious body? If Kelly Brown Douglas is correct that “the change in attitude toward sexuality within the Black church and wider community must begin not at the top with Black church leadership…but at the bottom with the people who sit in the pews,” it also seems right to call into question of the church’s social architecture and what appears to be a patriarchal investment in the metaphysical distinction between leaders and followers."