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White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue ... and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue ... and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Wow!! What a great collection of essays. Considering how short this book is, I am honestly so impressed by how thorough and detailed each of these essays are, and how each one of them stands alone and comes full circle by the end of the chapter. By the time I finished and closed the cover, I felt like I had learned so much. Cultural appropriation is one of those terms that tends to put people on the defensive, even though it's really Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Wow!! What a great collection of essays. Considering how short this book is, I am honestly so impressed by how thorough and detailed each of these essays are, and how each one of them stands alone and comes full circle by the end of the chapter. By the time I finished and closed the cover, I felt like I had learned so much. Cultural appropriation is one of those terms that tends to put people on the defensive, even though it's really important to understand why it's harmful, and how it relates to privilege. This book is all about cultural appropriation and privilege, and it's written in a way that makes it virtually accessible to virtually everyone because of how concisely and logically it identifies problematic behaviors and why they cause pain. I challenge even the most bigoted person to pick this book up and not learn anything from it. Even if you don't agree with the author, you will at least understand why it's upsetting to individuals of color when white people don pastel locs to fashion shows or Coachella, and how erasure and white-washing remove people of color from key discussions about race and equality, and even from pop culture. Some of the subjects that the author wrote about that I found particularly interesting were, of course, the appropriation of black and rap culture by white people (focusing specifically on Miley Cyrus and Christina Aguilera, but also applied more broadly) and how that ties into the fetishization of people and women of color; cultural appropriation in fashion (tying back to the title of the book, and focusing on locs and box braids); black slang and Black Twitter and how pop culture borrows from the innovations of black people without giving credit or acknowledgement, leading to the ultimate white-washing and erasure of the origin of these references; Paula Deen, and the idealization of the historic South (while omitting slavery); activisim, feminism, and intersectionality; and then, throughout the book, the importance of BLM and how racism influences oppression and inequality. When I put down this book, I actually thought to myself, "WOW." In all caps. Wow, I learned so much and I still have so much more to learn. Wow, this book is so important and everyone should read it, because it will either validate you or educate you (or both), and it's written in such an affirming, engaging way. Even though the title is somewhat provocative and controversial, the text is not. It's matter-of-fact, and just states things as they are (with evidence to back it up). Racism is still a HUGE problem in the United States, and the world at large, and I think having dialogues-- as the author did, by writing this book-- and laying out these issues in the open where they're much harder to ignore is a key step in tackling the inherent inequality that is still such an integral part of our country's makeup. Read this book and boost this author-- she's amazing. I can't wait to see what she does next. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 4 to 4.5 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Did the people who gave this book one star (and are, unsurprisingly, white) even read it? They leave no reviews, which leads me to believe they didn’t, or they know their opinions of the book are wrong. So I’m rating this book five stars to even things out until I actually get a chance to read it next month. At that point I will update my rating and provide an appropriate review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Quick read and fascinating book. Very insightful. I recall this subject being discuss back in the '90's. And have always recognized white cultures stealing of music from the black community-that's gone on for decades. When I first learned of this back in the 70's I was pretty appalled that none of the rock stars of the day, who admitted stealing, weren't giving reparations to those black artists.... Every culture borrows from other cultures, that's a given. It's how cultures blend and grow. But Quick read and fascinating book. Very insightful. I recall this subject being discuss back in the '90's. And have always recognized white cultures stealing of music from the black community-that's gone on for decades. When I first learned of this back in the 70's I was pretty appalled that none of the rock stars of the day, who admitted stealing, weren't giving reparations to those black artists.... Every culture borrows from other cultures, that's a given. It's how cultures blend and grow. But I have never thought it right that anyone should make millions off of thievery. It's just wrong. Lately, I'm also beginning to hear talk of cultural appropriation of tacos...they've gone global and some folks aren't happy about it. Five stars for being well-written and well researched. Direct, straight to the point and no nonsense, I loved it! Thank you Ms. Jackson. I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I don’t know what I expected going into this book but it was outstanding and so thought provoking. She totally told me about myself as a white woman. Jackson is an incredible writer and I will read whatever she writes in the future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Chidester

    Finally have been given the cultural events with sharp insightful dialogue and the educational tools to explain to my peers just how deep the impact of cultural appropriation is. Loved the layout of the book and would read anything this author puts out moving forward.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I’ve been using cultural appropriation as a controversy to teach my Intro Comp class for the last three semesters, mostly because it doesn’t have any easy answers or easy lines to draw. Jackson knows that, and through some very detailed research she considers the roots of cultural appropriation and the ramifications of those realities. She doesn’t attempt to draw the broad lines that my college freshmen so desperately want drawn, because she considers revolution to be the only way to remake a I’ve been using cultural appropriation as a controversy to teach my Intro Comp class for the last three semesters, mostly because it doesn’t have any easy answers or easy lines to draw. Jackson knows that, and through some very detailed research she considers the roots of cultural appropriation and the ramifications of those realities. She doesn’t attempt to draw the broad lines that my college freshmen so desperately want drawn, because she considers revolution to be the only way to remake a racist system. So, pragmatically, she wants people to *think* about why we appropriate and what it means, whether considering Paula Deen, Christina Aguilera, or the legalization of weed. She makes a very good argument that the constant appropriation of, particularly, African-American culture is based on desire, power, and the way that white America cannot reconcile the wish for power over black culture, even as white America desires the creativity of black culture. A very academic, detailed read. I, at the tail end of Gen X, felt lost with some of the tech and pop cultural references that Jackson makes. I could be aging out of relevance, but I do wish that Jackson hadn’t assumed her audience to be quite as familiar with the minutiae of those areas, especially since I do think people like me, academic but wishing to be better informed allies, should be an audience for a fascinating and informative book like this. I just wanted a few more explanations and a little more context at times; I had to google multiple references to memes and Kardashian-related details, for instance (yes, I had no clue about Crying Jordan — I admit it. Sigh). She is fully a millennial author when it comes to immersion in pop culture and social media, with the good and the challenging entailed by that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Monte Price

    I'm honestly not in a place to talk about the themes of this book in any kind of intelligent manner. A lot of the things discussed here have been discussed in various think pieces on various sites and by a plethora of people; plenty of whom are referenced in this collection of essays. I'm calling them a collection of essays though I'm not really sure that's an appropriate term. All of that said, despite a lot of this already being things that I've read or been exposed to, there was plenty that I I'm honestly not in a place to talk about the themes of this book in any kind of intelligent manner. A lot of the things discussed here have been discussed in various think pieces on various sites and by a plethora of people; plenty of whom are referenced in this collection of essays. I'm calling them a collection of essays though I'm not really sure that's an appropriate term. All of that said, despite a lot of this already being things that I've read or been exposed to, there was plenty that I wasn't and Jackson does a remarkable job of expressing themselves over the course of this book. There were so many moments I found myself wanting to engage with the text [ and being mad that I couldn't because I'd checked it out from the library ], mostly because Jackson was able to take a thought I'd had or an idea I'd seen expressed elsewhere and crystalize it in a way that I just found enchanting. I really cannot recommend this book more, to everyone really. It's a book I know in the future I'll return to time and again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Sean

    This book is amazing in that it was so short, yet managed to thoroughly cover so many area in the essays that pulled together in an amazing manner. I think within the black community we've seen appropriation in this manner FOREVER but we didn't do the research. Lauren Michele Jackson did. The book is more of a 4.5, but I'm rounding it to a 5. Recieved as a goodreads giveaway. What a gift!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    A smart discussion of white appropriation of black culture.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    An interesting analysis of the cultural shift and application of African American cultural creations and developments in music, technology and language among other aspects that have significantly influenced the greater American community and specifically to the younger Caucasian American generations born within the last thirty or so years. For those that are interested in the concept of cultural appropriation, this book using different imagery and examples illustrating the ever changing aspects An interesting analysis of the cultural shift and application of African American cultural creations and developments in music, technology and language among other aspects that have significantly influenced the greater American community and specifically to the younger Caucasian American generations born within the last thirty or so years. For those that are interested in the concept of cultural appropriation, this book using different imagery and examples illustrating the ever changing aspects of American culture and society, this book is a great educational yet simplified critique and analysis. It should be noted that while the book divides this "cultural appropriation" into distinct categories such as economics, politics, technology, language, music, etc., the book is less than 200 pages meaning the amount of information and examples is somewhat simplified and condensed, but nevertheless worth a second look. Well done. **I received this as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Ann

    Disappointing. Boring. Gossipy. Unsubstantiated generalizations. Lacking in insight. No differentiation between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. No basis for steps to change. I truly anticipated a book that would be substantive, that would define and differentiate truly painful experiences that we have endured. I found the ever ongoing examples of life with Miley Cyrus (sp.:??) and Christina and Paula Dean to be unendearing and gossipy. One would be led to the impression that Disappointing. Boring. Gossipy. Unsubstantiated generalizations. Lacking in insight. No differentiation between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. No basis for steps to change. I truly anticipated a book that would be substantive, that would define and differentiate truly painful experiences that we have endured. I found the ever ongoing examples of life with Miley Cyrus (sp.:??) and Christina and Paula Dean to be unendearing and gossipy. One would be led to the impression that ALL of their fame, their money came through cultural appropriation and not any underlying talent or other promotional possibilities. YUCK... I don't even watch any of their shows. The lack of true scientific basis was dismaying. The reference section was dismaying, if I were to look deeper into it I might find a comic book used as reference (sarcasm here!) The generalizations were astounding.. to present this as representational of all black culture, of all black peoples, let alone ONLY a problem with black culture ... wow. In all books, I look at WHO is the intended audience. It was difficult to determine here. It certainly wasn't for us. It looks like it was intended for whites that wanted to get on the band wagon of saying how much more enlightened they were by reading this book. I guess they may have been.

  12. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    A quick, interesting and affirming read. I loved this look into the various entities that seek to extrapolate the blackness from black culture and "liberate" *cough, whatever, cough** the culture from blackness after stealing our shit. I love that Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson went into current reference points like the Kardashians and their culture-vulture nature, as well as Rachel Dolezal and her self-hatred/reinvention and the historical ways that black culture has been stolen and reappropriated A quick, interesting and affirming read. I loved this look into the various entities that seek to extrapolate the blackness from black culture and "liberate" *cough, whatever, cough** the culture from blackness after stealing our shit. I love that Dr. Lauren Michele Jackson went into current reference points like the Kardashians and their culture-vulture nature, as well as Rachel Dolezal and her self-hatred/reinvention and the historical ways that black culture has been stolen and reappropriated for the white masses via food, art, style and even activism. I loved it because, as much as it was frustrating to read the ways that cultural appropriation has harmed the black community (many have tried to erase us from our art and legacy, which will never happen), it was affirming to read what educated and knowledgeable people done been knowing: we set the wave. EVERYTHING THAT POPS in this society, in the popular world as we know it, was built off black culture. We set the trends. We are the wave. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and we are icons. Nice to see it here, crystallized.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    I went into reading this book with an open mind. I knew the book was going to be about race and for the most it was but it wasn't just about race. This book was very insightful and shocking. It is heavy book with lots of information and facts/examples. In this book, Ms. Jackson uses examples from the music industry, different time periods and modern day issues to prove her point. This book blew my mind. I will be purchasing this book; it is something I want to have for years to come. The only I went into reading this book with an open mind. I knew the book was going to be about race and for the most it was but it wasn't just about race. This book was very insightful and shocking. It is heavy book with lots of information and facts/examples. In this book, Ms. Jackson uses examples from the music industry, different time periods and modern day issues to prove her point. This book blew my mind. I will be purchasing this book; it is something I want to have for years to come. The only negative thing I have to say about this book is that is read a little like a textbook, but that could be because it was just tons of information. I felt like I need to go and do some research.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shelby Lynne

    "It feels bad to wade in the repercussions of our behavior, it feels good to apologize and disavow and consider oneself exempt moving forward. But being online, being white, being online as a white person, means never being exempt. Antiracist as a noun does not exist. There's only people doing the work, or not. The person genuinely invested in the work doesn't run from discomfort but accepts it as the price of personhood taken for granted." There were a lot of passages in this book that "It feels bad to wade in the repercussions of our behavior, it feels good to apologize and disavow and consider oneself exempt moving forward. But being online, being white, being online as a white person, means never being exempt. Antiracist as a noun does not exist. There's only people doing the work, or not. The person genuinely invested in the work doesn't run from discomfort but accepts it as the price of personhood taken for granted." There were a lot of passages in this book that stretched, challenged, humbled, and demanded better of me, but I think this one sums it up best.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rosa Sealy

    If Petty Betty had a doctorate degree in throwing shade, it would be this book. Summary: "everybody wanna be a nigga but nobody wanna be a nigga." She even uses this legendary Paul Mooney quote. I wholeheartedly agree with White Negroes but as a black woman, okay so what's next. In other words, water is wet. It's a short book but a long read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Miguette

    A short book that deals with the subject of cultural appropriation. The author shows that the phrase cultural appropriation goes beyond natural cultural interchange and refers to the practice of profiting off of black intellectual labor, black artistic labor, black linguistic labor, black creativity etc. She defends her points using examples familiar to anyone well versed in current popular culture. She spends a lot of time on her examples and I don’t think it makes a stronger argument, but that A short book that deals with the subject of cultural appropriation. The author shows that the phrase cultural appropriation goes beyond natural cultural interchange and refers to the practice of profiting off of black intellectual labor, black artistic labor, black linguistic labor, black creativity etc. She defends her points using examples familiar to anyone well versed in current popular culture. She spends a lot of time on her examples and I don’t think it makes a stronger argument, but that might be because I tune out whenever I hear mention of the Kardashians, and there’s a lot of mention of Kardashians and their ilk. Probably because they most visibly profit from projecting an image not wholly their own- one they have appropriated from black trend setters. Black avant-garde who won’t profit, won’t be credited and won’t be thanked. In short- the continued exploitation of black people for white profit. Doesn’t merit 5 stars because so much barfy pop culture made it a chore and because if this book had been written by a stronger polemicist (think Ta-Nehisi Coates or Arundhati Roy) it would have been great, but it’s just rather ranty, well no, not ranty so much as talk show-y or blog like.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bri

    Full disclosure, to me, this is a book that will take a lot of brain power to read. It's heavy subject matter written like a text book. Fascinating, but not easy to knock out all at once. Worth the read, without a doubt, though.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Josephine

    An indispensable voice: cuts through the most complicated and important cultural issues of our time with accessible, entertaining precision.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Buzzfeed Books List, September 2019, "33 Books You’ve Got To Read This Autumn"

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Stevenson

    This is an informative book that explored various topics of cultural appropriation. Topics include: Black Music, Language and memes, Black Anger and Death and lastly Black Money and businesses. This book doesn't have a strong call to action, but rather a request to be empathetic when using another culture and to if possible provide reparations for benefiting from someone else.

  21. 4 out of 5

    A

  22. 4 out of 5

    Venessa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alexandria

  24. 5 out of 5

    Noni

  25. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Gorman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mindy Goorchenko

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Leffert

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bob Lyons

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra Chubachi

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