The prevailing idea underscoring Richard Iton’s thesis in In Search of the Black Fantastic is that there is something of “value” in popular culture. That this something of “value” is necessary to understanding how Black people make sense of “the political;” or that range of practices that structure how the modern world operates. That this something is woefully under-analyzed within the disciplines that center the study of politics, wherein we conceive of how to be free. And also, that this something of “value” is not merely an aesthetic valuation, that it is beyond the logic of the aesthetic or even a counter-aesthetic.
It is somewhat ironic that the freest expressions and articulations of Black thought—those that exist within the cultural realm—are also seen by political thinkers as less serious domains of political engagement. And that those areas which have been complicit in our domination—formal politics— are thought to be changeable, negotiable. Formal politics requires concessions, whereby our cultural traditions embody freedom. The rational liberal subject is no match for the blues. After all, as Randy Weston once queried my brother Henry Williams, “Who is more freer than Louis Armstrong?”
The Black fantastic then is that underside, or other side. That way of being that resists the idea that we must be transformed from a “thing” into something that is recognizable as citizen, as subject, as respectable, as normative. And a knowing that even if this was possible, it would require what E. Franklin Frazier calls a sort of self-effacement. Thankfully, the Black fantastic exists outside of Frazier’s world of “make-believe” and it provides a source for thinking and creating that is only beholden to those who live “in the wake” of modernity.
Yet there are still challenges. Commodication. Technology. The imposition of industry in art. The requirements of the aesthetic that make creating a counter-aesthetic seem plausible. The attempt to graft flawed understandings and meanings of normal politics within the domains of the fantastic, a practice Iton links to the development of a superpublic; a kind of neo-minstrelsy. The imprecise ways we frame diaspora and the larger implications of Black thought beyond the nation. These are its limits. But such limits are more about the external modes that structure its appearance, rather than the internal logics that make the Black fantastic. And so what we need more than anything is art that continuously subverts those externalities and when that subversion is incorporated, art that subverts that incorporation. It is a cycle.
And like Iton, we need to search for that subversion while holding steady a critical eye toward the external forces that limit us. They in fact, exist in a tension between modes of belonging and visions of freedom. Those freest visions interrupt normal politics by offering a vantage point and sensibility that stands apart rather than within. And they are always with us—playing out, under, and against. Through thick and thin. Ultimately, recognition is not a practice of being seen as much as it is about changing what it is to be seen and what seeing is. The political is an inferior space for such an awareness. The fantastic points us to another view from the bridge
 See Iton, In Search, Chapter One.
 Iton is one of few scholars that directly respond to the challenge of Clyde Taylor’s The Mask of Art (Indiana UP, 1998).
 Iton directly singles out the scholar, Adolph Reed, Jr. See his Stirrings in the Jug (UMN Press, 1999); Class Notes (New Press, 2000); and The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon (Yale, 1986), among others.
 See Iton, In Search, Chapters Four and Five.
 See Iton, In Seach, Chapters Six and Seven.
 See pages 210-18.
 See pages 148-57.