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Amir Said
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Mar 15, 2010
Satire and sarcasm are wonderful tools for illuminating topics (especially black/white relations in America) that are less than easy to talk about. Done properly, satire can rather effectively move the dialogue forward, in a way thats beneficial to all. However, when satire fails to reach its mark, it runs the risk of being far too offensive or insensitive. Obviously, I get what ayos *trying* to do. But at what expense? Remember, ayos book is an actual product. And although I respect that its also fundamentally a performance piece, Its not certain that everyone will *get* her humor. In fact, you can be sure that some whites will even applaud it. What got me rethinking about ayos How to Rent a Negro was the How to Write About Africa piece written by acclaimed journalist/satirist Binyavanga Wainaina. Wainaina uses humor to draw attention to how Africans are largely portrayed by Westerners (mostly white). But whats key about his piece is the undeniable tone that makes you reflect more than laugh. How to Write About Africa makes the case for African dignity in the face of Western pity. On the other hand, How to Rent a Negro seems to just poke fun of those white Americans who arent exactly clear how to interract with black Americans in a country not too far off the door steps of Jim Crow, Reconstruction, and, yes, slavery. Hey, I dont mind a good laugh when the benefits outweigh the means to the laugh. But in the case of How to Rent a Negro, Im not quite sure if the laugh justifies the means, especially whent its a satirical art-product for sale that may offend more than inform... -Amir Said