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Monday, April 16, 2007

The fetishization of the inner city black male

There's an interesting discussion going on at Pandagon regarding the racism and misogyny rife in hip hop. In reading some of the observations in the comments section, I came across one that summarized mainstream America's hungry consumption of the inner city black male image as a fetishization, and a ping went off in my head. Because, of course, this is exactly what is going on in our society. The racialized stereotype of the threatening black male is now an image that too often defines masculinity for young males of all colors and has become a commodity for marketers to target to this demographic. As one commentor noted, the marketers have funnelled the cool of the racialized image, and has repackaged it to "white dudes in the suburbs" so they can "feel 'masculine' without feeling 'cheap and ghetto.'" In other words they can make the claim without playing the game. And the marketing isn't confined to American shores, as visitors to many westernized cities around the world can listen to rap songs blaring from radios while non-black males (and females) attempt to emulate what they consider "black cool."

Sadly, though, many of these same consumers use these racialized stereotypes to justify their racist beliefs and have little to no experience with actual blacks who would counter the assumptions. So the consumers become ridiculous contradictions, plugging the music, talking the game, donning the cloak of "ghetto" without having to deal with the implications of being black and male in an actual ghetto. And at the same time, they get to deride the images they emulate.

This fetishization can even be found in the pages of romance through the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series penned by J. R. Ward. I've read two of the first books in the series and they are good reads. But I couldn't help but notice that in books peopled with non-blacks, the hulky "brothers" (who are also vampires) walk, talk and dress like any "brothas" from the 'hood. And thus again, the image is re-parceled and meted out in a more palatable version so as not to be too ghetto, but provide just enough of an edge to retain that "black cool."

Ironically, except for the rappers who have become the purveyors of this fetishization, the inner city black male is not the one making the bucks from the marketing of his image. And it's sad, really, because you would think that if you’re the one providing the template for the product, you should at least retain the license and patent as well as make some dollars because many of them could use the money - you know - to actually get out of that ghetto.

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Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 4/16/2007 10:14:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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