I wish I had waited to write my previous post on Chief Keef and respectful use until I had finished Coombe’s book, because I think many of the points Coombe makes in the latter half of the book speak very strongly to the issues I raised re: appropriation of African American cultural art forms, particularly the power relations embedded in consumption and production of (‘trap’) hip hop. Though I felt Coombe’s treatment of Troop, Reebok, and Church’s to be slightly problematic at times, the larger points made—connecting legacies of chattel slavery to African American cultural production, community spaces, and white consumption of the black body—are prescient in both my discussion of Chief Keef and Tiffany’s initial post on Sir Mix-a-Lot (Coombe’s arguments shed a whole new light on the politics of white male nerds copping Sir Mix-a-Lot’s lyrics, “gimme a sista, I can’t resist her/red beans and rice didn’t miss her!”).
I also appreciated Coombe’s discussion of appropriation of elements of Native cultures (in her case, names and Indian bodies themselves), though I admit the Redskins problematization is, in my mind, a bit tired (and Coombe acknowledges this in part, including a quote reminding us that a story on mascot controversy will be eagerly recycled nationwide, while other perhaps more dire “Native issues” fall by the wayside in dominant press). I do wish Coombe had devoted more space to an exploration of the ways Native peoples continue to resist offensive mascots—examples include Tsalagi scholar Adrienne K’s popular writings, First Nations powwow step trio A Tribe Called Red’s newest mixtape (which samples the Atlanta Braves’ theme music), and the following shirt (far right; incidentally, the below photo is of A Tribe Called Red):
Coombe’s discussion of appropriation of elements of African American cultural productions and things like the Redskins and Crazy Horse malt liquor both speak to legacies of colonial violence and quite literally bring up issues of ownership of self and the body—how might Coombe’s arguments here be understood from an understanding of imperial biopolitics?
Is it possible to mobilize law regarding intellectual property and copyright towards a more equitable or just understanding of authorship and ownership? If we understand the current structure set in place as defined by axes of (race, class, etc) power, can we also see space in it for restorative justice? What would that radical restructuring look like in the context of ongoing colonial occupation and exploitation of POC?