By E. Patrick Johnson
Johnson appears at quite a few websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic exercises by way of Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings by means of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral heritage of his grandmother’s adventure as a household employee within the South, gospel tune as played by way of a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality reports lecture room. via exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to aside from sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the a number of significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his personal complicity, as ethnographer and instructor, in authenticating narratives of blackness.
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Additional info for Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity
The interviewee refuses to apologize for his middleclass status because he is a product of the ghetto: ‘‘I’m a born, bred, raised Harlemite. I knew what the hood was before most of these kids were born. ’’ This self-proclaimed ‘‘Harlemite’’ realizes the futility in trying to prove one’s blackness to those who believe that dwelling in the ghetto is a prerequisite for the ‘‘real’’ black experience. The ‘‘ghetto experience’’ is as much an ideological construct as is the category ‘‘blackness,’’ a cultural performance with the discursive trimmings of hegemonic identity.
Black Ain’t is the sequel to Tongues Untied in that although it broadens its scope to examine black identity in all of its contradictions and contingencies, the focus of the ﬁlm is Riggs’s battle with aids, which he apparently knew he had contracted when he ﬁlmed Tongues Untied. Riggs thus stages the ﬁght for his life against aids within the broader context of black identity politics. For Riggs, the processes by which we ﬁght deadly diseases such as aids and those by which we ﬁght over the embattled status of blackness circumscribe the process by which we come into our humanity.
In the civilized societies the women do light work, bear children, and lend purpose to the man’s existence. They train children in the ways of wisdom that history has shown to be correct. Their job is to train the children in their early life to be men and women, not confused psychotics! This is a big job, to train and propagate the race!! Is this not enough? The rest is left to the men: government administration, the providing of means of subsistence, and defense, or maintenance of life and property against any who would deprive us of it, as the barbarian has and is still attempting to do.
Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity by E. Patrick Johnson