By E. Patrick Johnson
Johnson seems at a number of websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic exercises by means of Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings through Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral heritage of his grandmother’s adventure as a family employee within the South, gospel tune as played by way of a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality stories lecture room. via exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to with the exception of sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the a number of significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his personal complicity, as ethnographer and instructor, in authenticating narratives of blackness.
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Extra resources for Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity
Also growing out of the 1960s problematic focus on prescribing authentic blackness was the equation of ‘‘African’’ garb with ‘‘real’’ blackness. Insofar as ‘‘Western’’ clothing was associated with whiteness and upward mobility, one’s choice of clothing implicated membership in a certain class. Not surprisingly, the more African garb one donned, the more authentically black and ‘‘down’’ one became. This emphasis on clothing, however, fetishizes and commodiﬁes an ahistorical representation of a mythic African past, whereby Africa is reduced to a monolithic whole.
Not as a philosophic doctrine that there are no rational grounds for legitimate standards or authority; it is far more, the lived experience of coping with a life of horrifying meaninglessness, hopelessness, and (most important) lovelessness. ’’ Indeed, they do not experience a joy that ‘‘runs, bang! into ecstasy’’ but rather into despair. The testimonies of these young men featured in the ﬁlm are in contradistinction to the romanticized folk culture depicted by those who unproblematically image the black working class and inner-city dwellers as somehow inoculated from the devastation of their surroundings, reconstructing the weary, worn propaganda that misery breeds creativity.
In Black Is Riggs presents images of the Black Panthers marching in their berets, armed as if marching oﬀ to war. These images engender the intentional militaristic rhetoric of the Black Panthers as well as the ways in which blackness and masculinity are conjoined with violence. ) of a black phallic economy. She explains: ‘‘When we translate the history of black oppression sexually, especially through the writings of George Jackson and Eldridge Cleaver, it’s all sexualized into emasculation and castration.
Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity by E. Patrick Johnson