By E. Patrick Johnson
Johnson appears at a number of websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic exercises by means of Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings via Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral background of his grandmother’s adventure as a family employee within the South, gospel track as played via a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality experiences school room. by way of exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to apart 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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Paradoxically, the fact that homosexuality is seen as the ‘‘ﬁnal’’ break suggests that the direct line to an original template of black masculinity was cut in spite of rather than because of homosexual identiﬁcation. Nonetheless, the black homosexual becomes the site of displaced anger for the black heterosexual, the scapegoat used to thwart his own feelings of inadequate manhood. The result is a disavowal that locks the homosexual outside the bounds of authentic blackness even when the black homosexual’s ‘‘caring,’’ ‘‘sharing,’’ and ‘‘contributions,’’ like that of black women, stand for some of the most radical political eﬀorts in the struggle for racial equality.
13 This association of the folk with black authenticity necessarily renders the black middle class as inauthentic and apolitical. Indeed, over the years various black scholars, writers, and activists have located authentic blackness within poor and working-class black communities, suggesting, according to Valerie Smith, that the black working class ‘‘is an autonomous space, free of 22 The Pot Is Brewing negotiations with hegemony, that contains the pure source of musical and spiritual culture and inspiration.
For sure, the margins of my ﬁeld notes are ﬁlled with my exploits of going ‘‘Down Under’’ but, alas, these tales remain tangential to gospel music performance in the land of Oz. I oﬀer this caveat not as an apology, but rather as a way to frame the methods deployed here and to point out the ways in which blackness is imbricated in multiple identity markers. This book is an explicit attempt to fully entwine theory and praxis. In so doing, its chapters embrace the myriad intersections of culture and politics by calling attention to the process of doing blackness.
Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity by E. Patrick Johnson