CANCELLED Lauren Michele Jackson: White Negroes White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue… and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation
In her debut essay collection, White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue… and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation, Lauren Michele Jackson, a professor of English and African American studies at Northwestern University, examines the problematic social trend of “black aesthetics without black people.” Her essays analyze the desire for black culture by people who are not black and takes to task America’s tendency to poach blackness for its profit and benefit. From art to fashion, language to activism, black culture influences worldwide trends. And, according to Jackson, everyone wants to be “cool” without fearing for their lives, to be “black” with the wealth and privilege of whiteness.
Jackson asserts that when the powerful appropriate from the oppressed, society’s imbalances are worsened, and its inequalities extended. White people in America, Jackson writes, hoard power like Hungry Hungry Hippos. She cites statistics on the ever-growing wealth gap between white and black people in the United States—according to the Institute for Policy Studies, if current trends continue, the average black family won’t reach the amount of wealth white families own today for another 228 years. The seriousness of this reality comes into focus when we see who can thrive off of intellectual property and who is prevented from doing so by “this nation’s hysterical, driving compulsion to own and regulate all things black.”
Lauren Michele Jackson teaches in the departments of English and African American studies at Northwestern University.