Tiffany's Reviews > Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture

Black Like You by John Strausbaugh
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May 16, 09

Read in May, 2009

Strausbaugh starts off strong with his argument that calling blackface "racist" isn't nuanced enough to be accurate. He cites examples from popular songs and performers showing that blackface performances were sometimes subversive critiques of American society.

Still I think his argument starts to fall apart -- or rather, Strausbaugh gets lazier about making it -- about 3/5 of the way through.

It's harder to justify blackface, minstrelsy and buffoonery whether literal or figurative in any form once we reach the 20th century. Yet Strausbaugh still tries to connect this to an equal-opportunity-offender American ethnic humor tradition and seems to argue that black people should be less offended by such things.

I also disagree with the way he morally equates blackface and whiteface. The latter has been far less popular, far less persistent, and far less consequential for its targets than the former. And whiteface was never used by new immigrant groups as a way to gain race or class privilege.

Another problem I have with Strausbaugh's book is the writing. His tone is a little too "Ironic Journalist" for my tastes. I think Strausbaugh assumes that his audience is on the same page. He's a little too glib for my tastes.
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Reading Progress

05/01/2009 page 105
27.34% "He argues that blackface performers both mocked blacks and criticized American culture"

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