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American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business, and the End of White America
Synopses & Reviews
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 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 cliché 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.
"Provocative....Wynter's study is fascinating." Kirkus Reviews
"Wynter brings cutting insights to this absorbing and refreshing look at American race relations and cultural diversity." Booklist
"Making an indisputable if sometimes obvious case for non-white influence on American culture, Wynter...joins a chorus chronicling the dissolution of America's once-clear racial delineations into a 'transracial' culture." Publishers Weekly
Written by a former Wall Street Journal columnist, this provocative look at how American identity is undergoing a radical shift from white to brown offers a lively exploration of the evolution of racial identity in popular culture and media.
About the Author
Leon E. Wynter created and wrote the "Business and Race" column for the Wall Street Journal for ten years and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio. His essays on race, business, and American culture have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, and New York Newsday. He lives in New Rochelle, New York.
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