American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business, and the End of White America
Race has always been America’s first standard and central paradox. From the start, America based its politics on the principle of white supremacy, but it has always lived and dreamed of itself in color. The truth beneath the contradiction has finally emerged and led us to the More… threshold of a transformation of American identity as profound as slavery was defining.
We live in a country where the “King of Pop” was born black and a leading rap M.C. is white, where salsa outsells ketchup and cosmetics firms advertise blond hair dye with black models. Whiteness is in steep decline as the primary measure of Americanness. The new, true American identity rising in its place is transracial, defined by shared cultural and consumer habits, not skin color or ethnicity. And this unprecedented redefinition of what “American” sounds, looks, and feels like is not being driven by the politics of protest or liberal multiculturalism but by a more basic American instinct: the profit motive.
Smart marketers discovered that the inherent, subversive appeal of transracial American culture was the perfect boombox for breaking through the noise of a crowded marketplace: Nike and the NBA used unambiguous black style to create modern sports marketing; Pepsi validated Michael Jackson as a superstar while adding millions to its own bottom line; Hollywood turned a taboo into a lucrative clich? with black-white buddy films; Oprah Winfrey created the model for the ultimate individual corporate brand; and Budweiser created a signature series of commercials built around four ordinary black men signaling something ineffably American with one word “Wassup?”
In the end, this is a hopeful but clear-eyed argument that while we fall short of true equality, we are opting to carry on that struggle together within a common American cultural skin.
(Tags: Transracial, America, Entertainment)