"Two Warring Ideals": Race and discursive resistance in the war of 1898
Elkan, Daniel Acosta
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The racially fraught Wars of 1898 (commonly referred to as the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars) brought issues of race and belonging to the forefront in the United States. Motivated in part by dominant racial conceptions of the period, the war opened up a discursive space for black Americans and Afro-Cubans to resist narratives which placed them outside of a sense of "martial manhood" and therefore beyond the possibility of national belonging. The success of this resistance was tempered at times by the "politics of empire" which constrained certain narratives and made the formation of black diasporic solidarities difficult. Through an examination of periodicals and literary texts, I will analyze how discursive resistance to the prevailing white racial narratives of the United States and Cuba were articulated, and the various social factors, particularly conceptions of masculinity, which impacted this resistance. Further, I will discuss a common critique of U.S. imperialism among black Americans, which pointed to the incongruity of a refusal to take action against the Jim Crow racial order while simultaneously pursuing overseas influence over people of color. I have found that this discursive resistance comprises an important stage in a move towards a sense of a "New Negro" consciousness by enabling a questioning of the racial narrative on its own masculinist terms. The mass movement and cultural contact enabled by U.S. imperialism was an important factor in the creation of this discursive space of resistance, and the rising masculinist consciousness of black America.