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Neo-PassingPerforming Identity after Jim Crow$
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Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041587

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041587.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

Black President Bush

Black President Bush

The Racial and Gender Politics behind Dave Chappelle’s Presidential Drag

(p.96) Chapter 4 Black President Bush

Eden Osucha

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines fictional depictions of African American presidents as a popular trope in U.S. film, television, and literature, as producing a discourse of “black presidentialism” that implicitly embeds a logic of passing that comes into relief in sketch-comedy performances by Richard Pryor and David Chappelle. This chapter argues that Chappelle’s “counterburlesque” as “Black President Bush,” which rearticulates George W. Bush’s Iraq War policy and its justifications rearticulates in terms of black hypermasculinity and street vernacularities, exposes how popular culture’s discourse of black presidentialism, in its post–Civil Rights era instantiations, invokes what the traditional passing narrative understands as the disconnect between its protagonist’s appearance and presumed essence of his or her identity, with acute attention to the role gender plays in racial semblance. In the case of the black president trope, that dualism is recoded as the tension between the abstracted white manhood of the office of the presidency and black masculine racial particularity.

Keywords:   Dave Chappelle, Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, black presidents, presidentialism, passing, racial masquerade, racialization, performance, George W. Bush, masculinity, gender, comedy, black male body, counterburlesque

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