Three Reasons Why Black People Need to Copyright Our Stuff

The appropriation of Blackness, it’s piecemeal inclusion into the “mainstream,” often takes place vis-a-vie non-black bodies and this tends not benefit Black people directly or indirectly.

Here are three reasons why Black people need to gon’ head and take some copyrights out on our stuff…

1. Elvis, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, etc. — African American music forms, African American English, and African American dance forms continually get appropriated by everyone, not just white people. This alone isn’t really a “problem,” but what must be recognized is that these appropriations can (and often tend to) set the cultural stage for the devaluation of those forms when black people use them and the devaluation of black people, period. For example, everybody twerkin, but black women remain marginal and objects of ridicule (especially those women who twerk for a living).

2. Black and Brown people should get kickbacks for bronzer and all skin care products that darken white people’s skin so that they can be their favorite black people for Halloween.

3. The appropriation of Blackness, it’s piecemeal inclusion into the “mainstream,” often takes place vis-a-vie non-black bodies and this tends not benefit Black people directly or indirectly. However, if we could get ourselves together and put together a Black Folk Culture Trust which curates and obtains rights for black stuff at least we could see that money build up and then with the money, we could hand out turkeys like Nino Brown every Thanksgiving.  We need to do something because the margins of society are productive (voguing, black speech, hip-hop, R&B, the blues, rock ‘n roll…), and it’s about time for all those on the margins including gays, lesbians (straight girls wasn’t rockin’ ties and short cuts ’til the lesbians did it), women, youth, and black folk… to get paid for all this extra work we put in to make people look “cool”.

A Reading List about the politics of Cultural Representation and Racial Appropriation. It’s complex.

H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman
2012 Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. Oxford University Press

Mary Bucholtz and Qiuana Lopez
2011 Performing blackness, forming whiteness: Linguistic minstrelsy in Hollywood film. Journal of Sociolinguistics 15:5

Paul Gilroy
1993 The black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Harvard U Press.

Jane Hill
2004 The Everyday Language of White Racism. Wiley-Blackwell.

E. P. Johnson
2001 Appropriating Blackness. Duke U Press.

Monica Miller
2010 Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. Duke Press.

Also, I think comedian and cultural critic Paul Mooney’s take on this subject is worth noting:

These are great places to start. Feel free to leave suggestions.

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