Black Like You is a refreshingly clearheaded and taboo-breaking look at race in American popular culture–from Jim Crow, Aunt Jemima and Buckwheat to Eminem, Shirley Q. Liquor and Dave Chappelle. With remarkable common-sense and candor, John Strausbaugh–a regular contributor to The New York Times–illuminates realities about race rarely discussed in public:
• No history is best forgotten–however uncomfortable it may be to remember. The power of blackface to enrage and mortify Americans to this day is reason enough to examine what it tells us about our culture and ourselves.And in this mongrel culture, Blacks and Whites, writes Strausbaugh, “mock and mimic one another, are by turns attracted to and repulsed by one another, sometimes love and sometimes hate one another, sometimes fight and sometimes embrace. It is a culture no high-minded purist could love, and no wishful forgetfulness will amend. All this will continue for as long as America is America.”
• The impact of blackface has been deep and long-lasting. Its influence can be seen in rock and hip-hop; in vaudeville, Broadway, and drag performance; in Mark Twain and “gangsta lit”; in the earliest film strips and Hollywood’s 2004 White Chicks; on radio and television (from The Amos ‘N’ Andy Show to the reality show Black. White.); in advertising and product marketing (Aunt Jemima); and even in the way Americans speak.
• American culture conforms neither to knee-jerk racism nor to knee-jerk political correctness. It is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix–a mongrel.
In short, it has a beauty–albeit a flawed beauty–all its own.
an excerpt of the book
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