Joseph Gorman


The purpose of this thesis project is to look at the works of contemporary African American satirists as they confront post-racial ideology. In looking at the works of Jordan Peele, Paul Beatty, Mat Johnson, and Boots Riley, thematic threads emerge to form a portrait of dire unrest amongst those non-white identities living in an allegedly post-racial world. Before analyzing the works, I first contextualize the thesis with a brief discussion of satire as a literary genre and African American satire as a literary subgenre, as well as address the emergence of post-racial ideology during the tenure of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I then examine the ways in which Peele’s film Get Out, Beatty’s novel The Sellout, Johnson’s novel Pym, and Riley’s film Sorry to Bother You attack a variety of satirical targets that all relate to the falsehoods of post-racialism. In the first chapter, I analyze the ways in which Get Out and The Sellout address the covert nature of white supremacy in contemporary America. The second chapter covers all four artists’ satirical visions of the ways American slavery still haunts and informs our national consciousness. In the final chapter, I address the efforts of Beatty, Johnson, and Riley to foster a greater understanding of the post-racial conditions that force the act of “selling out” racial identity in service of survival. While rich in their complexities and nuances, the four artists do not offer clear answers to the problems that continue to plague non-white identity in America. However, their collective efforts to expose the lies of post-racial ideology encourage an important conversation about how goals of racial equity and acceptance might be achieved. Together, Peele, Beatty, v Johnson, and Riley indict systemic oppression and create a historical snapshot of a vitally important period in America’s continued struggles with race.