|Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2014-12-13 21:18Z by Steven|
Tricia Rose, Director
Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
The dramatic changes spurred by the civil rights movement and other 1960s social upheavals are often chronicled as a time line of catalytic legal victories that ended anti-black segregation. Jeff Chang’s “Who We Be: The Colorization of America” claims that cultural changes were equally important in transforming American society, and that both the legal and cultural forms of desegregation faced a sustained hostile response that continues today.
According to Chang, the author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” multiculturalism challenged who and what defined America, going straight to the heart of who “we” thought we were and who “we” aspired to be. Attacks on exclusions by multicultural scholars and artists were taking place everywhere. University battles raged over whether the Western literature canon should continue to be elevated, or imagined outside the politics of racial hierarchies. Artists confronted the nearly all-white and all-male elite art world. Chang even describes Coca-Cola’s influential 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advertisement as a signal of how profitable a “harmonious” multicultural marketing plan could be. But over the next several decades, all the way through Obama’s elections, powerful counterattacks were launched, increasingly in racially oblique language. “Both sides understood that battles over culture were high-stakes,” Chang writes. “The struggle between restoration and transformation, retrenchment and change, began in culture.”…
…Surely our national fabric is more racially diverse than ever before, and a few more people of color have access to powerful cultural institutions. At the same time, “Who We Be” left me wondering about the resilience of power. It is possible but not inevitable that multiculturalism will fuel the creation of an anti-racist and fully inclusive society. But it is also possible that we could become the kind of multiracial society that keeps its darker-skinned people at the bottom to provide cultural raw material to a powerful white elite that celebrates the diversity on which it depends…
Read the entire review here.