Tuesday, October 02, 2007

That White Girl

If you regularly read my blog or have heard me speak in person, you know that I can be unapologetically proprietary about the term "hip hop." As an activist, I am quite critical of the phrase "hip-hop" being used synonymously with "gangster" and "thug." While I cannot deny the occasional intersection between hip hop and street life, I loathe the wholesale equation with the two. There are very few novels that explore that connection with the complex treatment of the role that race, class and even gender play in it.

There is a new addition to the small but growing canon of bona fide hip hop fiction that steps up to the plate to tackle this important yet difficult task. And check it. It was written by a White woman.

That White Girl is the debut novel of Jennifer "JLove" Calderon (ne� McLaughlin) and is inspired by her own life. Sixteen year old Amber is growing up middle-class in multiracial Denver during the 80s and attempting to find her place. Her search for community leads her to many places including, from a graffiti crew to the local Crips and all the drama that entails. These experiences force Amber to grapple with a variety of issues, both personal and political.

In the wrong hands, That White Girl could have been all the things that hip hops of color love to hate: White girl dabbles in Black culture – or what she thinks is "authentic" Black culture, whines, "Why can't we all just get along?" and never learns a damned thing about that gangsta called Racism and his first lieutenant White Privilege.

But JLove is no poseur. She has a proven track record as an activist, demonstrating time and again that she not only loves hip hop, she adores justice. JLove is not the female equivalent of Isaac of Barbershop who believes he's Blacker than you because he's fluent in Ebonics. She's not the one to throw shade at the other White person at the hip hop summit because she believes that there's just so many "Cool White People" points to go around and wants them all for herself. She's not that the chick who thinks her love of all things hip hop makes her immune to white privilege.

As a person who knows Jennifer personally, I can testify that she's the one who is unafraid to pull the coattails of other White folks when they engage in racist behavior and does so with empathy. She's the person who truly listens to her fellow activists of color even when what they say is mad hard to hear. She's the woman who never "forgets" that she's White, is in constant struggle with what that means, and always searches for ways and opportunities to exploit her racial privilege toward the ultimate goal of a building world society where it no longer exists.
JLove's that White girl, and I hope you cop and enjoy her novel.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i will have to cop this one.. thanks