An intensely personal, and philosophical, account of why white America’s racial unconscious is not so unconscious
An Essay for Ezra is a critique of terror that begins but by no means ends with the presidency of Donald J. Trump. A father addresses his son and a boy shares his observations in a dynamic dialogistic exchange that is a commentary of and for its time, taking the measure of racial terror and of white supremacy both in our moment and as a historical phenomenon.
Framed through the experiences of the author’s biracial son, An Essay for Ezra is intensely personal while also powerfully universal. Drawing on the social and political thought of James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Grant Farred examines the temptation and the perils of essentialism and the need to discriminate—to engage the black mind as much as the black body. With that dialectic as his starting point, Farred engages the ideas of Jameson, Barthes, Derrida, Adorno, Kant, and other thinkers to derive an ethics of being in our time of social peril. His antiessentialist racial analysis is salient, especially when he deploys Dave Chappelle as a counterpoint to Baldwin—and Chappelle’s brilliant comic philosophic voice jabs at both racial and gender identity.
Standing apart for its willingness to explore terror in all its ambivalence, this theoretical reflection on racism, knowledge, ethics, and being in our neofascist present brings to bear the full weight of philosophical inquiry and popular cultural critique on black life in the United States.