Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beyond the White Gaze? The Women of Mr. Ghetto's Walmart Video have Agency and Speak For Themselves

I always try to allow folks their own agency and voice.

Question: is this style of "black" dancing proof of Herskovits's theories about the Africanisms at work in Black American culture?

Who gets to decide what is black popular culture? Must we always embrace the good and discard the bad? Or is the "black" in black popular culture something multivalenced, complex, at times enriching and artful, and in other moments, debased and grotesque?

One of the perils of the digital age is that black popular culture (and that of other communities) can be widely circulated, subverting the policing of borders and boundaries. Conversations that were once confined to barbershops and hair salons in the black counter-public are now a click away, available on Youtube, for any person with an Internet connection.The Black Superpublic is real--the gatekeepers are unable to contain access and argue for an "authentic" black voice.

The young women who are "getting their hustle" on by dancing in Mr. Ghetto's Walmart video have no shame in their game. I wonder if these "queens" understand that while their performance may be some type of "expressive culture" offered up by people who happen to be "black," (I would suggest) it is not in fact Black Popular Culture.

These are old arguments about the politics of black representation that go at least back to the Harlem Renaissance, the New Negro, and Zora Neale Hurston. The great cultural theorist Stuart Hall masterfully outlined these complexities of the black in the black popular culture when he famously observed that:
However deformed, incorporated, and unauthentic are the forms in which black people and black communities and traditions appear and are represented in popular culture, we continue to see, in the figures and the repertoires on which popular culture draws, the experiences that stand behind them. In its expressivity, its musicality, its orality, in its rich, deep, and varied attention to speech, in its inflections toward the vernacular and the local, in its rich production of counternarratives, and above all, in its metaphorical use of the musical vocabulary, black popular culture has enabled the surfacing, inside the mixed and contradictory modes even of some mainstream popular culture, of elements of a discourse that is different -- other forms of life, other traditions of representation...

It is this mark of difference inside forms of popular culture -- which are by definition contradictory and which therefore appear as impure, threatened by incorporation or exclusion -- that is carried by the signifier "black" in the term "black popular culture." It has come to signify the black community, where these traditions were kept, and whose struggles survive in the persistence of the black experience (the historical experience of black people in the diaspora), of the black aesthetic (the distinctive cultural repertoires out of which popular representations were made), and of the black counternarratives we have struggled to voice.
Here, black popular culture returns to the ground I defined earlier. "Good" black popular culture can pass the test of authenticity -- the reference to black experience and to black expressivity. These serve as the guarantees in the determination of which black popular culture is right on, which is ours, and which is not.
Black people ought not to always operate under the assumption and threat of the White Gaze. But, where is the critical intervention and reflection which suggests that Mr. Ghetto's world of culture and style may not be the best way to represent the black community? Or are matters of representation purely secondary to pleasure?


CNu said...

is it is, or is it ain't jes grew?

sledge said...

I'm just wondering. How long does fad have to last before it becomes part of the culture?

My gut feeling says that unless it's passed down from generation to generation it isn't culture. It's only an expression of the current new generation. Each generation seeks to distinguish itself from the last by it's expressions.

But usually they don't become a part of their culture.

Anonymous said...

Why are you introducing Herskovits into this issue? Why even good there? Your question is clearly irrevelant.

What drives this recurrent theme of yours to always seek some type of esoteric agenda and cultural reference with whites and others to contrast for the things Black folks do?

Are we always in play and under some racial and cultural litmus test for intellectuals like you?

What drives this cultural insecurity of yours? What is your underlying angst about Black folks and our ethos in the public? Once again the specter of low expectation has entered your posturing with regard to Black behavior. Why?

Why can't the interpetations of Mr.Ghetto & Company just be one take on this saga and not an indictment of the totality of Blackness?

Stop being reactionary and embrassed by the nature of Blackness it can of course handle your unwarranted parochial analysis such is the nature of genius of Blackness..

But at some point don't your tire of this cultural referee driven posturing?

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. Again, what are you afraid of? Herskovits is definitely in play here--are these legitimate "black cultural" archetypes or something else? The folks of NO would definitely argue that it is.

As you know, I take on blackness and whiteness. Blackness just isn't beautiful. It can also be ugly too. It is no less rich because of it. We are humans; as such we display a range of human behavior. Just like any other peoples.

Are there Africanisms at work here? I don't just recite slogans or read stuff and try not to apply it. I take my business too seriously to do that.

"But at some point don't your tire of this cultural referee driven posturing?"

I am Unicron and Galactus. My hunger never ceases! Couldn't resist...

Plus, how can you resist talking about Stuart Hall? Maybe next time we can talk about CLR James?

CNu said...

I'm just wondering. How long does fad have to last before it becomes part of the culture?

Is pole dancing part of the culture?

Aerial Amy - AmerAsian pole dance instructor - deconstructs the booty bounce for "others".

The booty bounce obviously has cachet among skrippers and wimmin who want that glamorous skripper workout (without necessarily enjoining the somewhat less than glamorous skripper lifestyle)

Anonymous said...

@ CD "Blackness just isn't beautiful" Freudent slip...(Joke)

@ CNU Strippers have been around in some form or another forever. Yet the black butt bounce just make men weak.

Anonymous said...


Sorry but I am a student of the Socratic Method.. I pose the questions stop deflecting.What is present in your narative is not my fear but your shame.

Why are you embrassed by the rawness and funkiness of Blackness?

Some of us don't require a cultural gps or dictionary as we explore and experience and observe the genius of Blackness in whatever incaration..Just saying..

CNu said...

only a true, and truly degenerate jiggaboo - could EVER confuse rank, stank, and dank skripper culture with blackness...,

right there in a nutshell is an exemplary display of a peoples' categorical failure!

Anonymous said...


Yep I view Blackness as an integral and organic aspect of all of the universe the good, bad and the ugly..

CNu said...

What an absolute gem of useless and meaningless Thrasherian rubbish.

Belsidus would have had one of his sub, sub, sub-alterns dispense with you in the interest of racial hygiene...,

Anonymous said...

Belsidus and his crew would get their asses kicked by Flash Gordon..

Stop Obessing over Mr. Thrasher..He must be a legend in your head...

At our next meeting I am going to tell him about you and how you mention him in every other post..

CNu said...

Nah jiggaboo..,

You absolutely exemplify much of what's wrong, degenerate, and desperately in need of reformation in contemporary black culture.

How come you didn't finish law school? How come you didn't pass the bar? How come you not practicing law? How come you didn't raise your own offspring? How did it come to pass that you have no useful or gainful employment, and function as a multi-level marketing type parasite and so-called "community activist"?

With no investment that you yourself earned, or that you can call your own, who voted or otherwise installed you to represent their interests?

Truly, truly, I say unto you - the era of your old tired, incompetent, and played out hustle is over, dead, done, and gone - and good riddance!

Anonymous said...


Still obessing over Mr. Thrasher..You really need to tighten up your internet intel on Mr. Thrasher.

He attended 2 law schools his offspring unlike yours are graduates from UM/NYU Law School & Howard MBA's.

Unlike you Mr. Thrasher has been legendary public persona and is often sought out for comments, Mr. Thrasher is an accomplished co-editor of the Voice of Detroit, Vox Union and other web based zines

Unlike you and CD and others who post here when Mr. Thrasher use to post here he never hid behind an alias but he has always been a public figure and he signs his real name to all efforts.

I pity you and your intense envy and jealousy of iconic Black man like Mr. Thrasher it amazes me how another Black like you has so much hate for him and Black people in general but according to some of the lectures by Mr. Thrasher in our group studies he has lectured about the wounded and fracture Black ego caused by centuries of white supremacy and how this pathology created pitiful people like you..Sad but I understand..

As I noted earlier when I see Mr. Thrasher this weekend I will tell him how you obess over him and how you envy Mr. Thrasher and his offspring ..

Good Nite Sir...

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]Who gets to decide what is black popular culture?[/quote]

My Dearest Friend Chauncey DeVega:

This thing called "Black Culture" - just like so called "Black Political Consensus" HAS NO RULES.

MAJORITY also supplies the JUDGMENT and thus in their "congregational conspiracy" they can ALSO decide to look beyond the "offensiveness" of both of these (culture and politics) and instead choose to focus on a UNIFYING EXTERNAL INDICTMENT as a means of tacitly punting on the issue of judgement.

EXAMPLE - we are likely to hear:
"Why is it that Fox New's Bill O'Reilly doing a segment on the 'Wal-Mart Girl' when I saw WHITE WOMEN doing the same thing at 'Rodeo World'?"

Do you see the trick above? (Surely you do for you are a master of it).

It does not make direct judgment as to this type of public display on the stereotypes of BLACK PEOPLE - it instead deflects to the most favored subject of Black Progressives like yourself: WHITE FOLKS who are in the mud with you.

It is not a BLACK COMMUNITY GROWTH initiative.
Instead it is a NEGRO PACIFICATION scheme.