Sunday, November 25, 2007

How To Rent A Negro

Sometimes you stumble upon something that is controversial, yet kind of cool at the same time. A couple of years ago a woman by the name of Damali Ayo authored a book entitled “How to Rent a Negro”. I had the book on my shelf for a while, but never got around to reading it until recently. I found it to be a hilarious and satirical look at what goes on between the races in American culture. The book is set up as guidebook for transactions between the renters (whites) and the rentals (blacks). The premise of the book is that if you are going to be the token black in a situation you might as well be compensated.

Although "the purchase of African Americans was outlawed many years ago," Ayo writes, "black people are once again a valued and popular commodity." In her view, they appeal especially to whites who rely on their relationships with blacks as evidence of their own progressive politics or simply to inject some sorely needed "cool" into their lives. Ayo has in mind real-life versions of George Costanza, the "Seinfeld" sidekick who spent an entire episode in search of a black person whom he could pass off as his friend in a social situation.

Whites like George need not despair that slavery is no longer legal, Ayo suggests. "Those who want to utilize the service of an articulate and well-mannered African American are easily classified as renters. Those who find themselves serving as certified African Americans for colleagues and friends are conveniently referred to as rentals." Her book is a tongue-in-cheek guide to completing such "transactions" with a minimum of fuss. As I mentioned the book is very funny, but it also has a sobering ring of truth.


Lori said...

Hey Pjazzy,
I stumbled across Ms. Ayo's work a couple of years ago. She was on CSPAN'S BOOK TV promoting her book HOW TO RENT A NEGRO.

I must confess, it took me a minute to get beyond her voice (smile) but I love the whole concept. And the satire is right down my alley--funny stuff on the one hand but meant to make you think on the other. Have to give the girl her props. One day soon, I'll have to add the book to my own collection.

pjazzypar said...


I caught her on CSPAN as well and thought she might be on to something. I know there have been times I have been invited to functions where I was the only one there of color and I was probably there to add some color. If I had known I could rent myself out as the educated, articulate, African American woman, I would have definitely collected my fee (smile).