Commodifying Race


I came across an article in Bitch Magazine about a woman by the name of Damali Ayo and her experience with racism in the United States. I want to bring special attention to this article because it brings up a fascinating strategy for activism towards racial equality. Ayo is an African-American woman who grew up in the predominately white neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon. In the article, she reflects back on her life and recalls numerous experiences in which white people have expected her to educate them on African-American culture while viewing her as a symbol of diversity. “Ayo often felt she was the token black person relied upon for opinions and advice precisely because of her skin color (Lisa Katayama, 2005).” After Ayo expressed her discomfort with this dilemma, her mother once said to her that she can’t be everyone’s rent-a-negro. This here was Ayo’s “aha!” moment. ” In 2002, Ayo created where customers can rent a “creative, articulate, friendly, attractive, and pleasing African-American person (Katayama, 2005).” In our capitalist economy, this is what I like to call the commodification of race. Her logic is this:

“We continue to look at black people in a service mentality, whether it’s bringing somebody their evening meal or serving up their education on racism,” she says. “And this, as we know, is not the role of black people in our society anymore. I was really interested in the way white people would get offended when I was reluctant to let them touch my hair or explain rap music to them. I realized that they had an expectation of me as a black person to do as they asked.”

Racism is an epidemic in the United States and I the first step in moving towards a society where everyone is treated equally is awareness. Ayo’s activism brings light to these societal issues; a light that is not turned on often enough. I am interested in hearing what readers have to say about this article and racism in general. Can you relate to Ayo’s experience with racism? How so? What do you think about her activist approach? Do you think its use of satire is a negative or positive thing?


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