Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture

Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture

3.7 3
by John Strausbaugh
     
 

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A refreshingly clearheaded and taboo-breaking look at race relations reveals that American culture is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix-a mongrel.

Black Like You is an erudite and entertaining exploration of race relations in American popular culture. Particularly compelling is Strausbaugh's eagerness to tackle blackface-a strange, often

Overview

A refreshingly clearheaded and taboo-breaking look at race relations reveals that American culture is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix-a mongrel.

Black Like You is an erudite and entertaining exploration of race relations in American popular culture. Particularly compelling is Strausbaugh's eagerness to tackle blackface-a strange, often scandalous, and now taboo entertainment. Although blackface performance came to be denounced as purely racist mockery, and shamefacedly erased from most modern accounts of American cultural history, Black Like You shows that the impact of blackface on American culture was deep and long-lasting. Its influence can be seen in rock and hiphop; in vaudeville, Broadway, and gay drag performances; in Mark Twain and "gangsta lit"; in the earliest filmstrips and the 2004 movie White Chicks; on radio and television; in advertising and product marketing; and even in the way Americans speak.

Strausbaugh enlivens themes that are rarely discussed in public, let alone with such candor and vision:

- American culture neither conforms to knee-jerk racism nor to knee-jerk political correctness. It is neither Black nor White nor Other, but a mix-a mongrel.
- No history is best forgotten, however uncomfortable it may be to remember. The power of blackface to engender mortification and rage in Americans to this day is reason enough to examine what it tells us about our culture and ourselves. - Blackface is still alive. Its impact and descendants-including Black performers in "whiteface"-can be seen all around us today.

Editorial Reviews

Alan Light
Strausbaugh has taken a disturbing piece of American cultural history and illustrated the ways that this music, for better and for worse, helped shape our world. As these songs performed for white audiences by white men painted black, based on songs sung by black men that might have been written by white men, gained popularity, he writes, "the question of whether minstrelsy was white or black music was moot. It was a mix, a mutt - that is, it was American music."
— The New York Times
Miles Marshall Lewis
Black Like You is an all-encompassing, breezily written summary of an aspect of American popular culture usually swept under the rug.
— The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585425938
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/16/2007
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
1,149,198
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

John Strausbaugh, a regular contributor to The New York Times, is the author of Rock Til You Drop and E: Reflections on the Birth of the Elvis Faith. Said Kurt Andersen: "There's quick and lite cultural journalism; there's bitter and snarky journalism; and there's the joyless, preening, homeworky 'cultural studies' of the academy. And then there's John Strausbaugh, who unerringly gets it just right: smart and high-spirited, funny and openhearted, a subtle and companionable mind with a palpable zest for celebrating the good and slagging the bad." Strausbaugh lives in New York City.

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Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Difficult
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's about time somebody had the guts to tackle a 'taboo' subject like this one! Strausbaugh's careful reseach, keen perceptions and biting sense of humor make this book an enthralling and mind-expanding read. And now that the Genographic Project has declared that as few as 2000 Africans saved Homo sapiens from extinction during the last ice age, so that we might go on to populate the rest of the world, this book is not just about the influence of blacks upon American culture-- it's about each and every one of us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading John Strausbaugh's new book, Black Like You, I am stunned. As a scholar of Ohio history, I protest the cavalier libel of Dan Emmett, and Ben and Lew Snowden. The author has NO PROOF of his contentions. Where is the evidence that Dan Emmett was taught to play the fiddle by an African-American? (pg. 102) Strausbaugh doesn't even attempt to footnote that. Where is the proof that Ben and Lew Snowden 'claimed to have taught [Dan Emmett] the song [Dixie]?' (pg. 104) It is incredible to me that the source cited for this is a REVIEW of Howard and Judith Sacks' book, Way Up North in Dixie--and the review is misrepresented. The second source cited is John Leland, in Hip: the History, who wrote that, in answer to Emmett's claim of authorship, the Snowdens 'disputed this credit.' (Leland, pg. 29) THEY DID NOT. It is telling that Leland--who also writes for the New York Times, also cites a review of the Sacks' book. (pg. 359, n29) Mr. Strausbaugh's error is most egregious. How in the world did he deduce from Norm Cohen's review that 'Ben and Lew Snowden, who'd been Emmett's neighbors back in Ohio and who claimed to have taught him the song.' (104) This material ABOUT the Snowdens did not surface until both were conveniently dead. IT IS HEARSAY, told by others ABOUT the Snowdens, never by the brothers. I shudder to think what other errors are incorporated into the book.