Ananlytical Review of Damali Ayo's How to Rent a Negro
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“Culture for Sale”
The book How to Rent a Negro by Damali Ayo is an instruction manual on how to use one’s culture, in this case black culture, as a means for income. Ayo contends that over many decades, black culture has been misappropriated by white individuals without permission, leaving blacks to feel exploited for their contributions to society. She points out that this practice, dating back to slavery, is still very much thriving in what is to be considered a post-racial society. Her solution to this problem is for blacks to start charging a fee for this misuse, also allowing whites to continue this behavior, as long as they are willing to foot the bill. She considers her concept of “renting” a person of color as a means to “bring these two groups together in the spirit of harmony and free enterprise” (Ayo 2). Whether or not one reads Ayo’s book as parody or as an innovative business venture, the message being portrayed is that black individuals and their culture will always be viewed as nothing more than commodities, valuable only in certain circumstances beneficial to white people.
At first glance, Ayo’s book appears to be a satirical account of the experiences black people have while being in a mostly white environment. She pokes fun at the concept of being the only person of color in a room. She compares it to a movie plot “where the main character has to give up her identity to be accepted by the popular, more powerful group. Or the one where the main character realizes he just isn’t like any one around him, and so is outcast” (47-48). While she is promoting the business of renting black people’s time to white individuals, she also appears to be mocking whites for participating in the practice. She describes the perfect prospective renter as having “a sense of entitlement,” “a well-rooted double standard,” and “an unwillingness to educate [themselves]”