White Negroes by Lauren Michele JacksonWhite Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue ... and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson
Published by Beacon Press on November 12, 2019
Source: Purchased
Genres: Essays, Race and Racism, Non-fiction
Pages: 185
Format: eBook
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Purchase at Amazon
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Exposes the new generation of whiteness thriving at the expense and borrowed ingenuity of black people--and explores how this intensifies racial inequality.

American culture loves blackness. From music and fashion to activism and language, black culture constantly achieves worldwide influence. Yet, when it comes to who is allowed to thrive from black hipness, the pioneers are usually left behind as black aesthetics are converted into mainstream success--and white profit.

Weaving together narrative, scholarship, and critique, Lauren Michele Jackson reveals why cultural appropriation--something that's become embedded in our daily lives--deserves serious attention. It is a blueprint for taking wealth and power, and ultimately exacerbates the economic, political, and social inequity that persists in America. She unravels the racial contradictions lurking behind American culture as we know it--from shapeshifting celebrities and memes gone viral to brazen poets, loveable potheads, and faulty political leaders.

An audacious debut, White Negroes brilliantly summons a re-interrogation of Norman Mailer's infamous 1957 essay of a similar name. It also introduces a bold new voice in Jackson. Piercing, curious, and bursting with pop cultural touchstones, White Negroes is a dispatch in awe of black creativity everywhere and an urgent call for our thoughtful consumption.

White Negroes is a great collection of essays around cultural appropriation and how it relates to power and privilege. It’s a short book, but each of the topics, music, art, fashion, language, economy, feels like it’s covered well with data and references and examples that get the author’s points across. The book is well structured, meticulously researched, and very readable. I do admit that I did miss some of her cultural references, current musicians or memes or whatever that I’m just not familiar with.

White Negroes is definitely worth reading. I learned a lot. Obviously, I knew cultural appropriation exists, but I don’t have a clear concept of how prevalent it is and how damaging to the black community. And some of the examples are just outrageous. Jackson doesn’t suggest there are easy answers or that the topics are clear cut. She does ask us to respect, recognize, and pay the creators, and to recognize how we contribute to the issues. “…it is a call to more alertness, more intensity, more care, and more fluency in the racial dramas performed as part and parcel of business as usual.”

About Lauren Michele Jackson

Lauren Michele Jackson’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Eater, Essence, New York magazine, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, and The Best American Food Writing 2018, among other places. Her first book, White Negroes, is a collection of critical essays on race and appropriation, forthcoming from Beacon Press in November 2019. She holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and teaches in the departments of English and African American Studies at Northwestern University.


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