Review by Kim Idol, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Blasian Invasion: Racial Mixing in the Celebrity Industrial Complex (Race, Rhetoric, and Media Series). Myra S. Washington. University Press of Mississippi, 2017. 192 pages.
The best aspects of story telling in service of a good argument are evident in Myra Washington’s book, Blasian Invasion in which she offers an engaging and layered argument that is a dynamic discussion about human nature and modern culture. Although this is a sociological treatise, Blasian Invasion tackles the mythological facets of race as well as the real world results of misunderstandings that occur when we evaluate people in terms of racial stereotypes. In fact this work is timely and vital particularly in light of the fact that current American political discourse racism is now being liberally employed to validate some horrific social engineering protocols.
This is a discussion of ethnicity as a term that because of the way the terms is used has become devoid of authenticity. “We find ourselves in a postmodern moment where culture has become flattened and emptied of meaning, only to be commodified and then sanitized…” (14), Washington writes. She focuses on ethnicity as if it was a brand used to sell the product (the person or the candidate) and considers the possibility of the development of “alternative concepts of community,” ones that focus on the name calling, if you will, that can be used positively to redefine human connections in terms other than ancient historical or biological terms. She not only wins the argument she presents, but she offers a place for so many aspects of self and identity to be examined that you finish this read wanting to write your own long hand response.
In this process, Washington also scrutinizes the notion of “whiteness,” reflecting on it as an unexamined code word that strangles any conversation about race because the word is so laden with assumptions of identity and power that no one contests its meaning. “I use transracial theory to denaturalize and disrupt normative racial categories,” (13) she says. Focusing on race as a construct (Washington uses the word “performative”), Washington dives into the reality of a culture that cannot cope with the reality of the diversity it seems to embrace. And in positing the strength of a hybrid understanding of race that is more vital than white vs. another she comes closer to an investigation about the nature of identity that is more flexible and therefore more genuine than the one currently being produced in mainstream conversations.
This is a compelling text. It is well written and wonderfully argued. It is also an aggressively contemporary with the text focusing people and events affecting the reader NOW (Miss Japan Beauty Pageant, Law and Order episodes, Charles Mingus, and the Kimora Barbie, for example.) I can think of several ways this text will further any number of investigations into racism and the way it affects the human psyche. I finished this book feeling as if I could fill notebooks with new ideas generated by my interaction with this text. Washington offers solid conclusions but more importantly she offers a myriad of rhetorical avenues one might pursue after reading this work.