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This qualitative study will explore the impact of the way that “Blackness” is constructed and commodified for consumption within a White supremacist culture, and examine the effects of this construct on the Black community. According to Leonard and King (2012), in their book Commodified and Criminalized: New Racism and African Americans in Contemporary Sports, “The process of commodification is not simply about selling an essentialized Black culture, but rather a particular construction of Blackness that has proven beneficial to White[s]” (p. 10). This paper will discuss some of the twenty-first century consequences of this phenomenon. The methodology will be conducted through a literature review and a content analysis of various cultural texts including films, interviews, and art that depict Blackness. My belief is that the popular consumption of commodified Black images is related to the maintenance of White supremacy, and thus the systemic oppression of Blacks in the United States.
Agency: An individual or social group’s will to be self-defining and self-determining (Hill-Collins, 1990, p. 298). Appropriation: the “use of a [historically subordinate] culture’s symbols, [language], artifacts, genres, rituals, technologies” etc., by members of a historically dominant group (Richard, 2006). Combining three interrelated frameworks, I will also define “appropriation” through bell hooks’ notion of “eating the other” (hooks, 1992), Bill Yousman’s concept of “Blackophilia / Blackophobia” (Yousman, 2003), and Watts and Orbe’s conception of “Spectacular consumption” (Watts & Orbe, 2002). Blackness:the construct of an essentialized Black culture, “or Black cultural identity [that] involves [and relies] on persons and other symbolic and material representations socially and historically constructed as ‘Black’ (e.g. speech and phonetic conventions, folklore, style, fashion, music, use of the body and Black physical form)” (Crocket, 2008).
Blackophilia: Used to describe the ambivalent interest in Black culture by non-Blacks as a source of both pleasure and anxiety (Yousman, 2003). Characterized by consumption and simultaneous fascination/disgust, attraction/repulsion, hypervisiblity/invisibility of Black pop culture. Equally, Blackophobia will refer to irrational fear, dread, and anxiety toward Blacks (Yousman, 2003).
Commodification/Commodity: For the purpose of this study, “commodification” and “commodifying” will refer to the process of turning unconventional entities into a marketable good that can be bought and sold. For example, referring to the commodification of the Black male body in contemporary sports, Leonard et al. (2012) stated that “Black male bodies are increasingly admired and commodified in rap, hip hop and certain sports such as basketball” (p. 8). Thus, a “commodity” will refer to anything that has been transformed into a buyable and sellable good. “In capitalist political economies, land, products, services and ideas are assigned economic value and are bought and sold in market places as commodities” (Hill-Collins, 1990, p. 298).
Hip Hop culture: “Encompass[es] more than just rap music— hip-hop has created a culture that incorporates ethnicity, art, politics, fashion, technology, and urban life” (Smiley, 2013).
Source Information: Nyambura Njee Eastern Michigan University, firstname.lastname@example.org