Damali Ayo, “How to Rent A Negro”

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From the “How to Rent A Negro” page at the Powell’s Books site:

A hilarious and satirical look at race relations that is almost too close for comfort, this pseudo-guidebook gives both renters and rentals “much-needed” advice and tips on technique. Reframing actual stories, techniques, requests, and responses gathered from the author’s more than 30 years of research and experience, tips are provided in step-by-step outlines for renters to get the most for their money, and how rentals can become successful and wealthy, what they should wear, and topics of conversation to avoid. The book also serves up photo-dramatizations of some of the popular approaches covered in the book, handy tip-boxes, frequently asked questions for renters and rentals, a “How do I know if I’m being rented?” quiz, a glossary of important terms, and “quickie” insta-rentals for those who need to rent on the go. Punctuated by quotes from former renters, and featuring rental diaries based on real encounters, this satire shocks and amuses, presenting a strikingly stark mirror of human relationships.

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The “rent-a-negro” site is here. Damali Ayo’s website is here. You can listen to Tavis Smiley’s NPR interview of Ayo here. One of the things she discussed was how numb we can be to the racism and sexism around us. An example she gave was how blithely people sing along to the song “Brown Sugar,” sung by the Rolling Stones and written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, without allowing the lyrics to register. Here they are:

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright
Hear him with the women just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should

Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin’ where it’s gonna stop
House boy knows that he’s doing alright
You shoulda heard him just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, now?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should, now

Ah, get along, brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, got me feelin’ now, brown sugar just like a black girl should

I bet your mama was a tent show queen
Had all the boyfriends at sweet sixteen
I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like
You shoulda heard me just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good, baby?
Ah, brown sugar just like a young girl should, yeah

I said yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
How come you…how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo
Just like a…just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, woo

–Ann Bartow

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