This article engages the relationships between information systems, antiracist protest, and race today. Building on the body of work that describes the ways institutional racism has shifted from an overt system during the (pre-) civil rights era, to a covert, color-blind system today, this article argues, first, that this shift mirrors the cultural change in information processing from analog systems to digital systems and, second, that signs of race articulated as racial protest have similarly changed over this historical period. Using the Black Lives Matter movement as a contemporary frame, the article focuses on three cultural objects that recall and revise civil rights protests to articulate this change: Ernest Withers’s 1968 photograph of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, Glenn Ligon’s 1988 untitled painting (“I Am a Man”), and the 2000 condition report of Ligon’s painting. Forming a historical network of racial protest, these images perform the changing semiotics of race and racial protest from signs that float as in an analog system to those that flicker as in a digital system. It is as a “digital,” flickering signifier of protest that blackness is rematerialized as visible matter to operate against color-blind systems today.
Laiola, Sarah Whitcomb
"From Float to Flicker: Information Processing, Racial Semiotics, and Anti-Racist Protest, from “I Am a Man” to “Black Lives Matter”,"
Criticism: Vol. 60:
2, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol60/iss2/6