Volume 14, Issue 6: Poetics
Using "Negroes" for Life
It was a professing radical of the left who first defended his ideology's need to exploit underclass black
culture to define the future "hip" and the "cool." Only the left could be so unselfconscious about jaw-dropping
racial exploitation and then turn it into a mainstream reality. In
Dissent, in 1957, noted white author Norman
Mailer made his infamous case for this in "The White Negro," an essay explaining that the way to fight
America's gross cultural conformity was to embrace the "hipster," the street existentialist who lived as if the "only
life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, . . . to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to
set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self."
Mailer suggested that it is "no accident that the source of Hip is the Negro" because he "must live
with danger from his first day, and no experience is ever casual to him." Mailer argued that the "negro" could
"rarely afford the sophisticated inhibitions of civilization, and so he kept for his survival the art of the primitive,
he lived in the enormous present, he subsisted for his Saturday night kicks, relinquishing the pleasures of the
mind for the more obligatory pleasures of the body, and in his music he gave voice to the character and quality of
his existence, to his rage and the infinite variations of joy, lust, languor, growl, cramp, pinch, scream and despair
of his orgasm."
Hip culture needed this angle in which to picture itself, "for Hip is the sophistication of the wise
primitive man in a giant jungle, and so its appeal is still beyond the civilized man, . . . a language most adolescents
can understand instinctively, for the hipster's intense view of existence matches their experience and their desire
More specifically, the Hipster was psychopathic: "The psychopath is notoriously difficult to
analyze because the fundamental decision of his nature is to try to live the infantile fantasy, . . . and in this
decision there may be a certain instinctive wisdom." Mailer adds, "at bottom, the drama of the psychopath is that
he seeks love."
Mailer didn't hesitate to read black underclass culture as psychopathic and use it for his purposes: "it is
no accident that psychopathy is most prevalent with the Negro. Hated from the outside and therefore
hating himself, the Negro was forced into the position of exploring all the moral wildness of civilized life which
the Square automatically condemns as delinquent or evil or immature . . . . [T]he Negro discovered and
elaborated a morality of the bottom." Likewise, "the Hip ethic is immoderation, childlike in its adoration of the present."
All of this works together in Mailer's mind toward a future in which "it may well be that the rise of
the hipster represents the first wind of a second revolution in this century, moving not forward toward action
and more rational equitable distribution, but backward toward being and the secrets of human energy . . . .
The hipster, rebel cell in our social body, lives out acts out, follows the close call of his instinct as far as he
dares, and so points to possibilities and consequences in what have hitherto been chartless jungles of moral nihilism .
. . . The Negro's experience appears to be the most universal communication of the West, and the authority
of their tortured senses may indeed be passing by the musical states of their artistic expression, without
language, without conscious communication, into the no doubt equally tortured senses of the wild sensitive spawn of
two vast wars."
Every race has its underclass, but it's rarely gripped as a static ideal. Mailer's particular ugliness is his
need to freeze the black underclass rather than let it progress. To have a dominant black middle class would
undermine Mailer's future. So he has to perpetuate his stereotypical "moral wildness" in order to bring life to
dead white American middle class. And his vision has largely succeeded. Though the black middle class
easily outnumbers the black underclass, the media follow Mailer's ideology, glorifying the smaller, underclass
segment of black communities in order to fuel an ideological need for adolescent primitivism.
Why do Mailer and company need to glorify primitivism? The French Revolution isn't over.
Rousseau taught us that immaturity and primitivism were the pure source of life, of the hip, of the cool. The
French revolutionaries glorified the "grunge" and "inner city" dress and culture of their time, the
sans cullotte, and we continue that tradition. Some group has to fulfill that old Rousseauean role, and so mainstreamed
progressive ideology forces black underclass into ita diversity that shackles. The most pathetic expression of this
ideological harvesting of the black underclass has to be those cases where Mailer's "white negroes" ultimately
use and then dispense with the race they use. Exploitation, desertion, and posed dominance. Thus the world