Once more, this is how we lost to the White man. Moreover, in the Age of Obama can't we do better?
Here, we witness a failing of the intimacy and immediacy of technology melded with the stupidity of the lumpen proletariat ign't knuckdragging hoodrat crowd. The first time I reflected on this problem, I linked the failing of the Black family and fatherless boys performing a la Beyonce to the monumental Moynihan Report. After watching the above video, the immortal words of Stuart Hall in his seminal, What is this Black in Black Popular Culture? were echoing in my ear.
For students of Black popular culture this essay is a requirement. For others trying to make sense of young men performing their version of black masculinity by dancing shirtless while practicing pseudo-frontage through their sagging athletic wear, Hall's piece is both illuminating and invaluable.
Some choice excerpts from Hall's What is this Black in Black Popular Culture?:
Black popular culture, like all popular cultures in the modern world, is bound to be contradictory, and this is not because we haven't fought the cultural battle well enough. By definition, black popular culture is a contradictory space. It is a site of strategic contestation. But it can never be simplified or explained in terms of the simple binary oppositions that are still habitually used to map it out: high and low; resistance versus incorporation; authentic versus unauthentic; experiential versus formal; opposition versus homogenization. There are always positions to be won in popular culture, but no struggle can capture popular culture itself for our side or theirs. Why is that so? What consequences does this have for strategies of intervention in cultural politics? How does it shift the basis for black cultural criticism?
There are deep questions here of cultural transmission and inheritance, and of the complex relations between African origins and the irreversible scatterings of the diaspora, questions I cannot go into. But I do believe that these repertoires of black popular culture, which, since we were excluded from the cultural mainstream, were often the only performative spaces we had left, were overdetermined from at least two directions: they were partly determined from their inheritances; but they were also critically determined by the diasporic conditions in which the connections were forged. Selective appropriation, incorporation, and rearticulation of European ideologies, cultures, and institutions, alongside an African heritage -- this is Cornel West again -- led to linguistic innovations in rhetorical stylization of the body, forms of occupying an alien social space, heightened expressions, hairstyles, ways of walking, standing, and talking, and a means of constituting and sustaining camaraderie and community.
The point of underlying overdetermination -- black cultural repertoires constituted from two directions at once -- is perhaps more subversive than you think. It is to insist that in black popular culture, strictly speaking, ethnographically speaking, there are no pure forms at all. Always these forms are the product of partial synchronization, of engagement across cultural boundaries, of the confluence of more than one cultural tradition, of the negotiations of dominant and subordinate positions, of the subterranean strategies of recoding and transcoding, of critical signification, of signifying. Always these forms are impure, to some degree hybridized from a vernacular base.