yaymukund’s weblog

Black performance itself, first of all, was precisely “performative,” a cultural invention, not some precious essence instilled in black bodies; and for better or worse it was often a product of self-commodification, a way of getting along in a constricted world. Black people, that is to say, not only exercised a certain amount of control over such practices but perforce sometimes developed them in tandem with white spectators. Moreover, practices taken as black were occasionally interracial creations whose commodification on white stages attested only to whites’ greater access to public distribution (and profit). At the same time, of course, there is no question that white commodification of black bodies structured all of this activity, or that the cultural forms of the black dispossessed in the United States have been appropriated and circulated as stand-ins for a supposedly national folk tradition.

Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy an the American Working Class (1993) by Eric Lott