Monday, May 6, 2013

To Be or Not To Be: Performing The [Non] Muthafuckin Factor In Blackface

This paper discusses how the influences of social media and Hip Hop music lyrics persuade the poor and middle-class Black American culture to perform wealth. I argue that performing the non-muthafuckin factor in Blackface is blacking up in the 21st century. How I interpret today’s Blackface performance is as follows: Blacking up in the 21st century requires that when in the face of the other man one always represents the measure of their success by their outward appearance of material worth before and above representing their inward appearance of self worth. Because White Privilege is considered more valuable than money can buy, the wealthiest Black person cannot attain upward mobility at a level comparable to white’s – thus requiring us to perform for our validation from each other and from the other. A significant number of Blacks have identified success with an outward appearance of material worth and associate this success with legitimacy. This representation of success is commonly referred to as baller status - one who lives an extravagant, money driven lifestyle. Once one has attained legitimacy they are deemed relevant and considered a muthafuckin factor. On the contrary one who has yet to attain reputable success or does not maintain an outward appearance of success is irrelevant and therefore reduced to a non-muthafuckin factor. To mask one’s lack of wealth, modest earnings or poverty one may be prone to posturing his/herself as a muthafuckin factor at the risk of being perceived as a non-muthafuckin factor. But in effect this mask is the face of the image one prefers to be recognized as even if it is an ill representation of their actual image. This example of performing wealth is what I’m problematizing as a re-presentation of one aspect of minstrelsy (Blacking up) in the twenty-first century. Blackface in this context is the portrayal of the non-muthafucking factor masked as the muthafucking factor. I view Blackface performativity as an ongoing response to being and becoming a muthafuckin factor.

I argue that numerous representatives of the Black American culture have bought into the notion that possessions equate to the legitimacy of one’s success. These representatives of Black culture are consumed by the need for monetary performance of their success or else they believe they appear to be lacking validation for being a muthafuckin factor. Such performance invokes the minstrelsy behavior of blacking up or as I refer to its modern depiction, performing the role of the muthafucking factor in Blackface. This article seeks to offer an alternative approach to avoid becoming a non-muthafuckin factor without performatively being a muthafuckin factor for the other.

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