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Act Like You Know: African-American…
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Act Like You Know: African-American Autobiography and White Identity (1998)

by Crispin Sartwell

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226735273, Paperback)

Whiteness is seen by many as the worldwide cultural norm, while all nonwhite cultures are negative, undesirable, and countercultural. In this important book, Crispin Sartwell shows how the writings of African Americans--including slave narratives, autobiographies, and rap music--directly engage that illusion, cutting through it like a laser. Citing Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, he details the slave narrative as an unabashed document of "language and liberation." With courageous candor, Sartwell, who is white, speaks of the European dualistic conception of race and its role in the historic sexual subjugation of black women. He also uncovers the culturally stifling effects of white sponsorship of black writers in their search for Afro-American authenticity and realism.

In his analysis of W.E.B. Du Bois's writings, Sartwell cites the African American intellectual's relentless assault on the racial fictions of contemporary social science. His critique of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Shirlee Taylor Haizlip's The Sweeter the Juice uncovers how blacks struggled within themselves to resolve the tension between blackness and whiteness, as articulated in concerns over skin color, hair texture, and ancestry. Zora Neale Hurston's work is remarked upon as "a monument of resistance to all impositions of specific forms of visibility. That she existed and wrote in resistance to white stereotypes of black women is obvious. But she also existed and worked ... in resistance to black stereotypes of the black woman." Although he may possibly overstate rap music's ability to transform racism stereotypes into themes of resistance, Sartwell has produced an important book that deconstructs the notion of white supremacy while affirming the richness and complexity of black culture. --Eugene Holley Jr.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:31 -0400)

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