… the appropriation of black culture by white suburban youth as being not only racist, but sexist….the phenomenon is definitely racist and simultaneously sexist. It creates a need for competition between the two races to maintain a hypermasculinity that is damaging not only to males, but females as well, on the basis of degradation of women by men that is further promoted in a manner in which females become willing participants in their own objectification and denigration.
A metamorphosis is then created whereby white supremacist assumptions about black culture are perpetuated and masculinity, as a performance, further marginalizes women and creates a movement of regression in response to advancements achieved by feminism. (Lemley, 2007)
Using our Bodies to Sell Us Out: Borrowing the Vernacular & Black Female Atttitude
My Mama utilized KMart’s layaway plan when I was in 7th grade. I remember she let me put a pair of brown cordoroy bell bottoms on lawaway — my first. A Senegalese man I dated said they also wore them in the 70s. The Francophone African culture called them “pattes d’éléphant” or “pattes d’eph” (meaning elephant feet or bell bottoms). Back in 1976, I was heading to a new school district entering junior high school. I’d moved to different schools since 4th grade so having the right clothes to fit in really mattered. It seemed like I was one of the last kids to catch on to the bell bottom fashion trend. Waiting for them was torture. My frugal single mom was working two jobs–one at Geico and the other at a liquor store in suburban Maryland–to pay off the balance. By the first week of classes, she made it happen. I had what I “needed” or wanted to fit in and thus began the adolescent socialization process of establishing friends (or not) and having the clothes that marked you in the right clique. I wanted to be part of the black girl clique from my neighborhood where lunchtime was card playing time. Spades every day! I still remember the underclass shaming among black kids that came with having to use layaway. My mother like most of our moms used layaway plans because they were being smart shoppers using the mechanisms available to them to access school clothes they could never buy outright. Other budgetary priorities were in demand. And my mother met all her bills on time.
BUYING IN TO FIT IN: KMART RELEASES “YO MAMA” AD
The youth culture at school–on the playground and in the hallways–on the other hand was about who got them first which was a sign of how facile your family was economically. Like it meant something to kids who earned NO MONEY to play the game of how much–pardon the pun–“booty” your family had. Did you have to wait to get your clothes or did you have the latest fashion sold? So it troubles me to see this new KMart advert where 2 urban-dressed black girls and 4 boys (South Asian, Latino and white) diss one another in black English vernacular “Yo Mamma” jokes revamped to laud the frugality that most kids have been socialized BY THE MEDIA to not even participate in. They are all about WHAT’S NEXT? What’s the latest fashion generally. And the pull of that consumerism is hard for most kids to resist in social settings like on the playground. I post it here inside of watching Black Girls on YouTube and inside of thinking about the work of Douglas Rushkoff. I was reading his 2000 London Times article “A Brand by Any Other Name: How Marketers Outsmart our Media-Savvy Children” published on PBS’s website.
The liberation children experience when they discover the Internet is quickly counteracted by the lure of e-commerce web sites, which are customized to each individual user’s psychological profile in order to maximize their effectiveness. [Read more here.]