Black professional party girl Genevieve Jones with Alex Logsdail and Kate Werble at the Guggenheim Young Collectors Council 2007 Artist’s Ball, New York, 13 December 2007. (Photo from Art Review by Tyler Coburn)
Yes, Virginia, you CAN Rent-A-Negro for your holiday party! Yes you can!
Now that Obama has been elected, a tipster inside a PR firm tells us, clients are demanding “an increased number of African Americans added to the guest list” at their holiday parties. In the spirit of hope! The email can’t really be “verified,” but appears genuine and is just too important not to share. This firm has even assembled an official internal “Diversified Holiday Guest List,” in which they rank the top 10 acceptable black socialite attendees, in order of desirability. Uh… yes we can?
Yes. Bringing your new, sparkly, hopeful (and paid for) black BFF to a swanky holiday function is now the fresh, dope, chill thing to do. After all, you can’t purport to live in the post-racial era if it’s still just you, Heidi Montag and the rest of the Gossip Girl crowd at the party getting tipsy on Cosmos, Mojitos, Mochatinis and Manhattans. That’s not post-racial at all. But paying black socialites Genevieve Jones and Maggie Betts to hold back your hair while you hurl is the bee’s knees! No one will ever accuse you of being racist again. And how could you be? You paid black people to be at your party! You’re the Rainbow Coalition and a United Colors of Benetton ad French kissing Barack Obama rolled into U2’s “One!”
All of this made me think of Damali Ayo’s oft misunderstood, satirical/socio-political Web site and book, both entitled “How To Rent A Negro.” On the site Ayo offered rates for blackness rental for everything from having living proof that you can’t be racist because you have black friends to charing $100 for “hair touching.”
Created back in 2003, it’s almost like Ayo fortolled of the Obama era, where black people would finally be paid for answering annoying questions (“Do you tan?”) and being told you look just like that one other black person the clueless tool you work with knows.
On my Facebook page I described this all as falling back into the appropriation of ourselves for our “uniqueness,” re: “not whiteness,” we have going. I basically said we’re furniture. Black people have a history of being treated like furniture (or horses or luggage or pick your object that can be bought and sold), but it’s only been in recent history where we’ve been able to cash in on this phenomenon. So, like Ayo joked — half seriously — if people are going to appropriate your cool the least you can do is get a check out of it. Think of all the times we were the only Negro at the party for free?
But remember these wise words from a fictional stripper named Diamond, my would-be rental social black butterflies — make that money, but don’t let the money make you.
Now if you don’t mind, I need to put up my “Rent A Black Snob” service where I will gladly go to your parties and insult/mock your blackness impaired friends, all in a faux upper crusty accent!
Fun for everyone!