The latest Target ads show a woman (comedian Maria Bamford, whom I will refer to simply as ‘the crazy Target lady’, as I’ve seen her called in some comments on YouTube) ‘gearing up’ for the approaching Black Friday sales. There are several commercials portraying ‘the crazy Target lady’, most often dressed in red and exhibiting physical strength which she’ll no doubt need to trample on other people while running maniacally through the aisles of Target, maybe for an XBOX Kinect™ for her husband, a Fisher Price Imaginext Bigfoot the Monster™ for her son, or maybe Disney Princess and Me Dolls™ for her daughter. These commercials seem ‘cute’ and ‘funny’, but the subtext is clear: We, the consumers, are insane—and that’s what corporate America is counting on.

This semester, I’m taking a Representative Authors course on Toni Morrison. My professor is a white woman. There are two black students in the class, and the rest are white. One of the white students frequently comments in class and, though it’s usually in context, I’m beginning to suspect that he registered for this course because he wanted a safe place to say the word ‘nigger’. I’ll come back to that.